After announcing Lou Gehrig's retirement from baseball on June 21, 1939 the Yankees declared July 4, 1939 "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" at Yankee Stadium. Over 60,000 fans showed to wish him farewell and say goodbye to an amazing ball player and man. Then Yankee Manager, Joe McCarthy delievered an intense, emotional goodbye to Gehrig with whom he had a very close relationship.
Struggling to control his emotions, Yankees Manager Joe McCarthy spoke of Lou Gehrig. After describing Gehrig as "the finest example of a ballplayer, sportsman, and citizen that baseball has ever known", McCarthy could stand it no longer. Turning tearfully to Gehrig, the manager said, "Lou, what else can I say except that it was a sad day in the life of everybody who knew you when you came into my hotel room that day in Detroit and told me you were quitting as a ballplayer because you felt yourself a hindrance to the team. My God, man, you were never that."
The Yankees retired Gehrig's number 4 making him the first player in history to be in honored this way. In December 1939, Lou Gehrig was elected unanimously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in a special election by the Baseball Writers Association, waiving the waiting period normally required after a ballplayer's retirement. At age 36, he was the youngest player to be so honored.
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Lou Gehrig was an athlete of strength and endurance. These two qualities were what earned him the nickname "Iron Horse." These two qualities could not however, withstand a rare form of degenerative disease - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This disease is now known as Lou gehrig's disease. And after his diagnosis there was no chance that he would ever play basbeball again.
In the beginning of the 1939 season, Gehrig played the first eight games. In these eight games he had only four hits. After hitting a ball back to pitcher Johnny Murphy, Lou had a tough time making it to first base before the throw. Arriving in the dugout he was complimented on his "good play" by teammates. Lou knew it was time to bow out when he received this reponse on such a play. As captain, Lou brought the line up card to the umpires as usual on May 2, 1939. His name was not included on the roster. "Ladies and gentlemen, Lou Gehrig's consecutive streak of 2,130 games played has ended," was heard by all from the game announcer that day.
On July 4, 1939, taking a moment to breathe in attempt to fight back tears, Lou Gehrig delievered an emotional speech that will be remembered by sports fan everywhere, calling himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." After his delivery, Babe Ruth hugged his former teammate whispering in his ear ending the long silence between the two.
Lou Gehrig is remembered as a talented, kind hearted and phenominal athlete and man with a winning attitude. He was described by his wife as a "square, honest guy" to Edward Hermann while he tried to place his character in preparing to play Gehrig in a movie. June 2 marks the anniversary of his passing and we would like to honor him by remembering the many amazing qualities of a man whose character "lay somewhere between the average and the mythic."