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.