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“I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” These iconic words resounded through the speakers of Yankee Stadium 75 years ago today when Lou Gehrig was honored just weeks after being forced to retire due to the increasing development of his ALS.
The ceremony featured several New York dignitaries as well as countless teammates. The list of people there to honor him included New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy and Babe Ruth. Gehrig received presents from those honoring him, including a fishing rod and reel, a smoking stand, a silver platter and a trophy, reports ESPN.
Gehrig was so touched by the ceremony that he almost did not say anything. McCarthy then gave him a word of encouragement, and Gehrig stepped up to the microphone to deliver the best speech in baseball history. He spoke from the heart, without the aid of note cards.
He lived for less than two years after this famous speech and passed away at the age of 37 on June 2, 1941, according to Baseball-Reference.
During the course of his 17-year career, he hit .340, which ranks 17th all-time. He is in the top five for career on-base percentage (fifth) and slugging percentage (third). Only Ruth and Ted Williams have higher slugging percentages that Gehrig’s .632.
On the field, he will be remembered best for his streak of 2,130 consecutive games, which earned him the nickname the Iron Horse. This mark stood as the record until Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed it in 1995.
When Gehrig retired, he was the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits with 2,721, a title he held until Derek Jeter passed him in 2009.
With Gehrig, New York went to seven World Series, winning six of them. He hit .361 with a .477 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 34 career World Series games, according to CBS Sports.
On eight occasions he recorded at least 200 hits in a season and also had 11 seasons where he had at least 100 walks.
Gehrig’s statistics speak for themselves, but it is his gentle demeanor, which showed through in his iconic speech, that continues to make him revered in the annals of baseball history.