"The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth": Remembering Lou Gehrig's great American moment

Seventy-five years ago today, in-between games of a doubleheader between the New York Yankees and the Washington Senators, Lou Gehrig said 276 words. In those 276 words, he embodied all that’s best in America. Eternally humble, he did not want “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day,” eternally optimistic, he later took a job as a New York City Parole Commissioner and living for more than himself he quietly resigned when he could no longer fulfill his duties. Just as he had pulled himself out of the line-up on May 2, 1939, making a hitless performance against the Senators on April 30, his 2,130 consecutive game, his last.

In a ceremony, described by the New York Times baseball writer John Drebinger as, “perhaps as colorful and dramatic a pageant as ever was enacted on a baseball field,” thrown in his honor, it took the urging of his manager, Joe McCarthy, to address the 61,808 people in the cathedral that was Yankee Stadium. We will never know what McCarthy said, but we owe him eternally.

Every baseball fan knows the first 30 words Gehrig spoke that day, or at least they should. Yet, in its entirety it is a speech of gratitude for life and of the blessings of his family and his life. Where the nine times Gehrig used “I,” it’s the smallest word in the sentence. He closes by saying, ” I’ve got an awful lot to live for,” even as the disease that would take him, rendered him unable to hold all the gifts rightfully bestowed upon him.

Seventy-five years later, in Gehrig’s 276 words we find the essence of the best in us travelers in life.