4 July, 1939, Yankee Stadium, New York
Henry Louis Gehrig was the New York Yankees’ first baseman from 1923 to 1939 and one of the finest baseball players of his era. He set a record for playing in the maximum number of consecutive games (2,130). He had a lifetime average of .340 and won the Triple Crown in 1934, an award given to a player for leading a league in three statistical categories in Major League Baseball.
A couple of weeks after he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a fatal disease that affects neuron and motor functions – and now commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – he gave a farewell speech that is considered the most famous speech in baseball history.
“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 17 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 honour 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. Thank You.”
Everyone in the stadium rose to their feet and clapped for nearly two minutes even as Gehrig wiped the tears away from his face using his handkerchief.
In December of the same year, Gehrig became the second youngest player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Musuem. Lou Gehrig passed away on June 2, 1941, at the age of 37.
For more such inspirational speeches for kids, don’t forget to visit our Speeches for Kids category page.