1180) The Luckiest Man On Earth

July 4, 1939

Three score and seventeen years ago today, Lou Gehrig delivered the ‘Gettysburg Address of Baseball,’ perhaps the most famous speech in all the years of the game.  It was one of the most moving moments in sports history.  It was his Farewell Speech at Yankee Stadium.  After 2,130 consecutive games with the Yankees, Gehrig had to retire due to the diagnosis of ALS, now commonly known as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”  He received the diagnosis on his 36th birthday, June 13, 1939.  His Farewell Day was three weeks later on July 4th.  He died less than two years later, on June 2, 1941.

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     The 1942 movie The Pride of the Yankees portrays Lou Gehrig’s life story.  In the clip below, the final scene famously depicts Gehrig’s moving farewell speech to his teammates and fans (yes, that is Babe Ruth playing himself in the background):

     The recordings from the day were sketchy, so there’s some debate on what Gehrig actually said.  However, the movie does convey the same tone and attitude as the commonly accepted full transcript, reprinted here:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got.  Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  I have been to ballparks for seventeen years and I 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 have considered 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 the white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something.  When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that 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 by saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an an awful lot to live for.  Thank you.

     What a tremendous example of the kind of gratitude to God we should all have as Christians!  Because of a “bad break,” Gehrig’s career was ended and he was about to lose his life in his prime years.  Yet instead of complaining, he expressed gratitude for all of the blessings he enjoyed, describing himself as “the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”  Gehrig chose to focus on being grateful for all he had been given, rather than resenting the fact that so much was now being taken away.
     The key to happiness is gratitude, and the key to gratitude is in focusing your attention on what you have, and not on what you lack.  Everything we have, including life itself, is an undeserved gift of God.

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I Timothy 6:6-8  —  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

James 1:17a  —  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…

I Thessalonians 5:16-18  —  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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A thousand gifts Thou dost impart.  

One more I ask, O Lord:  A grateful heart.

–George Herbert  (1593-1633)