Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech on July 4, 1939

Here is the full text of Gehrig’s speech. The start and end are very well known, but I’m not sure how easy it is to find the middle of what Gehrig had to say about retiring. So, here is the speech in its entirety:

“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.”

You can watch and listen to the speech at the lougehrig.com website.

As background for the speech, here’s part of a feature in the Bill Mazeroski Baseball Annual for 1995 that told the story of Gehrig’s career and, in this excerpt, the end of his consecutive games played streak on May Day 1939:

On May 1st, in Detroit, he went to see McCarthy in his hotel room. Gehrig was McCarthy’s favorite; he loved him like a son and it tore at him to see this great man so down. McCarthy wouldn’t remove Gehrig from the lineup and left it up to Lou. That night Gehrig asked to be taken out of the lineup and McCarthy agreed. At Briggs Stadium the next day, it was announced that Babe Dahlgren would be at first base in place of Gehrig. An unbelieving hush settled over the crowd. As captain of the Yankees, Gehrig brought the lineup card out to the umpires at home plate. He walked back to the dugout to an ovation—a tribute from the fans to a remarkable man. Gehrig went over to the water fountain and, taking a drink, started to cry. He sat in the dugout as the Yankees took the field and for the first time in fifteen years he was not one of them. McCarthy and Gehrig explained to the press after the game.

“I knew there was something wrong with him,” McCarthy said, “but I didn’t know what it was. His reflexes were shot. I was afraid of his getting hit with a pitched ball. That was my chief concern, to get him out of there before he was hurt. Lou just told me he felt it would, be best for the club if he took himself out. I asked him if he really felt that way, He told me he was serious. He feels blue. He is dejected. I told him it would be as he wished. Like everybody else, I’m sorry to see it happen. Fellows like him come along once in a hundred years.”

“I decided last Sunday night on this move,” Gehrig said. “I haven’t been a bit of good to the team since the season started. It wouldn’t be fair to the boys, to Joe, or to myself. It’s tough to see your mates on base and have a chance to win a ballgame and not be able to do anything about it. McCarthy has been swell about it all the time. He’d let me go until the cows came home; he is that considerate of my feelings. But I knew in Sunday’s game that I should get out of there. I went up four times with men on base. A hit would have won the game for the Yankees, but I missed, leaving five stranded. Maybe a rest will do me some good. Maybe it won’t, who knows? Who can tell? I’m just hoping.”

You can take a look at Gehrig’s performance in the eight games he played in 1939.

(There’s also a post on this blog about Gehrig’s prep career and Yankees debut, the time when he looked more like the man you see above.)

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Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm  Comments (20)  
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20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this great piece of baseball history. This will forever remain one of baseball’s greatest tragedies.
    Bill

  2. I beleive McCarthy was wrong when he said “Fellows like him (Lou ) comes along every hundred years…….There will NEVER be another “fellow” like Lou. RIP Lou, and God Bless You.

  3. thanks for the article

  4. I agree with the above comment….Lou Gehrig was one-of-a- kind. RIP Lou Gehrig I know God will welcome you with open arms.

  5. the first time i herd this it brought tears to my eyes and i want to learn more so i am doing a report about lou gehrig and i am going to print this speach and read it to my class
    cory

  6. I heard this speech as a teenager. Up to this point 40 years later. Still takes my breath away.
    Rene

  7. [...] traduzir o discurso, para facilitar a vida de alguns. Mas sintam-se à vontade para ler o original aqui (só voltem depois para terminar o [...]

  8. Lou Gehrig was a class act, a ball player and a gentle man rolled into one. Pride of the Yankees is my all time favorite movie and gave a glimpse of the man who was also referred to as the Iron Horse. Baseball today with all its greed lacks that type of persona. Too bad the world would be a better place.

  9. Antonym……………..Lou Gehrig…………………..Barry Bonds.

    Greg Dodd

  10. Why all the words about Lou Gehrig, it’s really very simple……using God’s own words……..”There never was, there isn’t one now.and there will never be another, Lou Gehrig !!

  11. Lou Gehrig has always been one of my heroes. He was a gentle and courageous soul: a hero to me because he considered himself to be “the luckiest man on the face of this earth”, even though he succumbed so early in life to a terrible disease. I’m 70 years old and in good health. His speech has helped me learn, and understand that I too, am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

  12. We are about to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, two of the greatest speeches in American history. I have heard several of baseball’s best announcers refer to Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech as baseball’s version of the Gettysburg Address.

    As an aside, IMHO, Lou’s greatest accomplishment on the field occurred in 1931 when he drove in 183 runs, still the AL record (Hack Wilson of the Cubs set the NL and ML marks the previous season with 190). In 1931, Babe Ruth hit 46 home runs and drove in 123 runs. How could Lou have possibly driven in 183 batting after the Babe?! Truly an amazing accomplishment!!

  13. Gehrig The Great

  14. It’s just a tragedy that he passed away so young. RIP Gehrig

  15. I was born in1929, so I was a little too young to realize what a person and ball player Lou Gehrig was.
    But since I’m a little older (?) now, I read everything and anything that mentions Lou Gehrig.
    Gehrig was not just a ball player, He was an institution and a treasure.
    He did not belong to the Yankees, he belonged to America. Can you even imagine how many young people he mentored, who worked hard to be like Lou Gehrig.
    I was one of those young people.
    Rest in peace, Lou Gehrig, we really miss you.

  16. I continue to learn about Lou Gehrig especially once my mom was diagnosed with ALS. Mom too, knew she was lucky to be 80 unlike so many very young with ALS. She said if someone in our family was going to get this, I’m glad it’s me. As her brother said about her, she truly lived by the 10 Commandments. I like to think Mom and Lou have their ‘old’ bodies back and as they say….’ are among the living! ‘
    God Bless.

  17. Lou Gehrig continues to inspire today. I am going through such a ruff patch in my professional carrier that it has affected my daily function. I am surrounded by a support system that is unmatched by anything I have ever experienced in my 60 years. I have friends in numbers beyond imagination. I have colleges, who, through their wisdom reinforce my resolve. I have mentors that keep me grounded. I have a teacher that has been my guide for almost two decades. I have a student who has become the teacher. I have a wife, who for thirty-nine years has been my savior, confidant, my constant, and since 1969, my best friend. I have just learned that I am a perfect donor match for a life saving bone marrow transplant. My big brother is the recipient. I have recited Lou Gehrig’s “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth” a hundred times in the last few days. . Lou Gehrig continues to inspire.

  18. so sad i wish he lived on to inspire more people.

  19. I have read Lou Gehrig’s speech many times. His speeches were the same as his bat………….powerful. Tony Camilletti, Sr.

  20. Thanks Lou Gehrig for what you did for baseball. We have missed you a lot. Your speech was very heart warming. You’re an inspiration to us all. Love, Shirley C.Crallie


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