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Happy 75th Anniversary: Lou Gehrig's 'luckiest man' speech

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

More: MLB first basemen recite the speech

On July 4, 1939, baseball legend Lou Gehrig was honored in Yankee Stadium. It was just a few weeks after he was forced to retire from the game following his ALS (now known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) diagnosis. The Yankees icon would pass away just two years later.

On the 75th anniversary of the most famous speech in MLB history, here it is:

Gehrig's numbers are astounding, so let's honor his memory by taking a look.

Gehrig hit .340, which is 17th all-time. His .447 on-base percentage is fifth and his .632 slugging percentage is third, only trailing Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

The Iron Horse had five seasons with at least 40 homers, topping out at 49 (twice). Get this: He drove home at least 150 (!) runs seven times. His career high was 185, which is still the AL record.

Not a speed guy, Gehrig still gathered 103 stolen bases in his career and tripled at least 10 times in nine different seasons, once hitting 20.

In fact, Gehrig is 33rd all-time with 163 triples. He's 35th with 534 doubles and 27th with 493 home runs. The only player in history with at least 500 doubles, 150 triples and 475 home runs, other than Gehrig, is Stan Musial.

Gehrig had eight different 200-hit seasons while also drawing over 100 walks in a season 11 different times.

The two-time MVP led the AL in the following categories at least once in his illustrious career: Runs (four times), hits (once), doubles (twice), home runs (three times), RBI (five times), walks (three times), average (once), OBP (five times), slugging (twice), OPS (three times), OPS+ (three times), total bases (four times), times on base (six times) and several other measures.

There are, of course, the championships. Gehrig won seven AL pennants with the Yankees and six World Series titles. In his seven postseason series, he was a monster, too, hitting .361/.477/.731 with eight doubles, three triples, 10 homers and 35 RBI in 34 games.

Finally, the streak. Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games before the disease ended his iconic streak. The record has since been broken by Cal Ripken, but the legend of Gehrig as the Iron Horse has rightfully endured.

What a player. July 4 is my favorite holiday for so many reasons, but baseball fans could take a moment to appreciate the legend of Gehrig this day as well. It won't take anything away from the birthday of our great country.

Here's the full text of Gehrig's speech:

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

"Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.

"When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift -- that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies -- that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter -- that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body -- it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed -- that's the finest I know.

"So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."

 
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