In a moment that will forever be frozen in time and sports history, a dying man stood courageously before more than 60,000 people and anyone in the world with a radio to say goodbye. He game across as genuine, humble, grateful, and courageous. Without a doubt, he meant every single word when he called himself, “the luckiest man on the face of this earth” for having the opportunity to play the game of baseball for a living.
Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, the man who did not miss one single game his entire 13-plus year career (that’s 2,130 consecutive games for those of you not counting) lowered his head and became an instant icon of what sports, and possibly all of life is about: accepting your destiny, giving it your all, and enjoying every moment, good or bad.
The transcript of his speech is below:
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.”
In many ways, this speech epitomizes my definition of what being a real man is all about. In less than 300 words, he expressed a lifetime’s worth of humility, courage, honor, gratitude, humor, and love.
If by some gift of tragic fate, I am fortunate enough to give a farewell speech someday to my family and friends, I only hope I’m half as poignant, real, and inspiring as he was here.