"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 the earth."
They are among the most famous words uttered in Major League Baseball history. This Fourth of July will mark the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's iconic "Luckiest Man" speech, and MLB and the 30 clubs will pay special tribute by joining forces with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) organizations to raise awareness for the disease, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speechFans, 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 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. 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.
As part of this effort, MLB will donate $300,000, collectively, to these organizations leading the fight against ALS -- ALS Association, ALS TDI (Therapy Development Institute), MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) and Project ALS -- while clubs playing at home on July 4 will conduct special on-field ceremonies to honor the Hall of Famer's legacy; the Yankees will hold their ceremony on July 2.
The announcement was made by MLB on Thursday, which marks another notable Gehrig anniversary -- the date of his birth in 1903. Gehrig passed away on June 2, 1941, at the age of 37.
"When Lou Gehrig delivered his historic farewell speech at the old Yankee Stadium, he inexorably linked our national pastime to the fight against this disease, which would claim his life and bear his name," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "It is a privilege and honor to pay tribute to his enduring legacy, not only as one of the all-time greatest players, but more importantly, as a courageous and noble human being, by advancing the cause to help find a cure and help those who are affected by ALS."
MLB is unveiling a special commemorative 75th Anniversary patch, which will be worn by all players, managers, coaches and umpires on July 4 or when clubs celebrate this initiative. Additionally, a special video will be played in all ballparks featuring one first baseman from each club reciting a line from Gehrig's speech. MLB.com and MLB Network will provide special coverage.
Last November, former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was honored at the 19th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit Dinner in New York, where about $1.172 million was raised for ALS research. Rivera called Gehrig "one of the finest men who played this game with dignity and loyalty, and he was taken with this disease. He lost his life to this, but his fighting spirit is in us. That's why you guys are here -- to give back and stay strong and help to defeat this disease that has taken so many lives. I know -- I'm sure -- that we're going to find a cure for this disease."
For more information or to donate to help ALS research, please visit MLBCommunity.org.