Lou Gehrig: Farewell to baseball (1939)

Henry Louis "Lou" Gehrig (June 19, 1903 – June 2, 1941), nicknamed "The Iron Horse" for his durability, was an American Major League Baseball first baseman from New York City. He played his entire 17-year baseball career for the New York Yankees (1923–1939). Gehrig set several major league records. He is chiefly remembered for his prowess as a hitter, his consecutive games-played record and its subsequent longevity. Also, he is remembered for the pathos of his farewell from baseball at age 36, when he was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease is now commonly known in the United States and Canada as Lou Gehrig's disease. On June 21, 1939, the New York Yankees announced Gehrig's retirement and proclaimed July 4, 1939, "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" at Yankee Stadium. At this testimonial on July 4, 1939, Gehrig addressed the crowds with his speech "Farewell to baseball". Afterwards, the crowd stood and applauded for almost two minutes. Gehrig was visibly shaken as he stepped away from the microphone, and wiped the tears away from his face with his handkerchief.
Watch the video and listen to Lou Gehrig's speech. Unfortunately, there is no video of the entire speech available. Only the most famous lines of his speech, the very first and the very last, can be listened to. Still, if you want to, you can read along with the text. Otherwise, you can also jump to the post-listening exercise directly after watching the video.
For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
And I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.
If you want to, you can read the entire speech below.
For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the 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. And I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.
Summarise in a few sentences why Lou Gehrig felt that he had "an awful lot to live for".
Although he was suffering from a very bad disease, he felt very happy and grateful because of several reasons. His career had been very successful and he had played baseball on the side of many well-known players. Also, he had had many fans who had motivated and encouraged him. And on top of that, he had been loved and well supported by his family, his parents and his wife.

Imagine you were a journalist interviewing Lou Gehrig at the Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, after he had delivered his speech. What could you have asked him? Write down some questions. If you like, you can take a look at the sample solution afterwards.
  • Mr. Gehrig, how do you feel?
  • What does it feel like to have to stop playing baseball?
  • When did you find out about your disease?
  • How did you react? What helped you cope with it?
  • How did your family support you?
  • Which events of your career will you never forget?
  • What do you like about baseball?
  • What are your plans for the future?


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