July 4, 1939: Lou Gehrig Retires from Baseball in Tears
On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig retired, giving a speech to fans at home plate after the New York Yankees played the Washington Senators.
The retirement celebration came just two weeks after Gehrig's disease had been made public.
The website More Gehrig says those who attended to support Gehrig's farewell, most notably, were Gehrig's parents, his wife [and] "all the 1939 Yankees with manager Joe McCarthy." Others who attended were "Bob Meusel, Bob Shawkey, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Joe Dugan, Mark Koenig, Benny Bengough, Tony Lazzeri, Arthur Fletcher, Earle Combs ... [and] Babe Ruth," among many others.
When Gehrig sheepishly stepped to home plate to speak, he held up his hand to silence the applause and said:
Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
He looked at those who had gathered to honor him and said, "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?"
Gehrig talked about how great his fellow Yankees were, how wonderful his family was, and the honor of having the New York Giants--"a team you would give your right arm to beat"--send him a retirement present.
He ended the speech by saying, "So I close in saying that I might have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."
He thanked the crowd, who then erupted in applause that continued for close to two minutes.
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