Friday, May 18, 2007

61,808 Honor Lou Gehrig

The Baltimore News-Post
Sports
Wednesday Evening, July 5, 1939

'Iron Man' Is Overcome By Emotion
by Sid Feder

NEW YORK, July 5-(A. P.)
The husky figure climbed slowly up the old wooden stairs back of the Yankees' dugout, shoulders bent, right leg limping and throat torn by sobs.

This was Lou Gehrig leaving the most dramatic moment of his life. Back of him, 61,808 fans piled on Yankee Stadium's tiered sides, cheered till the rafter shook, and out on the field a big, round-faced, flat-nosed fellow stood as tears rolled down his face.

He was Babe Ruth the one-and-only, who had just voiced for everyone who knows three strikes are out their feeling about Lou.

"C'MON KID"

He had gone over, put one of those big arms around Gehrig's shoulders and patted Lu once or twice, trying to get him stifle the emotion which had broken him up right out there on the bal field.

"C'mon, Kid," the Babe whispered through his tears. "C'mon Kid, buck up now. We're all with you."

That was what everyone had been trying to say to Gehrig for an hour during all that ceremony which marked "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" at the Stadium yesterday. The fans had been trying to; so had his teammates-those of the current Yanks and those of the '27 World Champions-and so had the baseball writers. But there was no one who could-or should-have said it like the Bam.

OLD-TIMERS GATHER

All around them were players of the current club and those of the past generation of world beaters. They had gathered, these old-timers, from the four corners of the country to do honor of old Lou, the iron horse, who has been put back in the roundhouse by a little germ. "beanballs" couldn't do it, nor broken bones, nor illness through the 14 years during which he chalked up sports' most amazing endurance record of 2,130 straight games in action. But this little "bug," a form of infantile paralysis, may have put a "period" on the hoss' playing career for keeps.

So the club, thanks to President Ed Barrow, put on the show for Lou yesterday before the biggest crowd of the year. And old timers unanimously agreed there has never been such a heartfelt scene on the diamond.

For Lou, a sentimental sort of fellow anyway, it was too much. Even before before the speechmaking and presentation of the gifts on the field, he was overcome in the clubhouse.
"There hasn't been a day since I came up that I wasn't anxious to get in uniform an dout on the field," he said. "But today I wish I was anywhere but in this situation."

VOICE BREAKS

Afterwards, on the field, he stood surrounded by gifts from the club, his teammates, the baseball writers, the Old Timers' Association of Denver, the Stadium employees and the New York Giants, and said a few words into the loudspeaker system. Several times his voice broke and a sob escaped as he announced, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
He waved an arm at the old teammates, fellows like Ruth and Tony Lazerri and Herb Pennock, Earl Combs, Wally Shang, Benny Bengough, Bob Shawkey, Bob Meusal, Mark Koenig, Joe Dugan, George Pipgras, and the rest.

"Just look," he went on, "wouldn't you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men as are standing on this ball field. Or with men like Col. Jacob Ruppert (late president of the club) or Miller Huggins (manager who died in the 20s)."

Then he stumbled, his eyes blinded by tears, back to the clubhouse. There, still the same shy retiring Gehrig, he turned to a friend and asked. "Did by speech sound silly. Did it?"


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1 Comments

  • Blogger Mamma posted at 8:08 PM  
    I've been a Yankee fan for as long as I can remember, then I had a cousin diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's. I never hear this story without an added sense of the heartbreak he must have felt. What an amazing guy!
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