UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) – He was a local boy. Lou Gehrig grew up in the Yorkville section of Manhattan, attended Columbia University and became the Pride of Yankees.
And now New Yorkers are remembering his simple, unscripted and incredibly moving farewell to baseball on July 4, 1939.
“I shed some tears,” sports writer Ray Robinson told PIX 11. “It was very touching.”
The 93-year-old Robinson is one of the few people still alive who remembers hearing what he and other sportswriters have called “baseball’s Gettysburg address” 75 years ago.
Ray was an 18-year-old Lou Gehrig fan sitting in the bleachers of a packed Yankee Stadium when heard his idol speak.
“I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” Gehrig told the crowd of 62,000. “I might have been given a bad break.”
Gehrig had played 2,130 games in a row, a record, until he was physically unable to play.
At 36, he thought he had infantile paralysis. He would be dead two years later from ALS.
Robinson, who had first seen Gehrig playing baseball at Columbia University when Robinson was only two years old, was a huge fan and eventually wrote the book, Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig In His Time.
“I was very touched by the simplicity of it,” Robinson told PIX 11, “the simplicity behind it.”
And although Marty Appel wasn’t at that doubleheader on July 4, 1939, the author of Pinstripe Empire says the New York Yankees legend’s reputation has grown larger over the past 75 years and deservedly so.
“Lou Gehrig was the model of what you want your son to be,” Appel said. “He embodied what is right about America.”