On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig uttered some words that would go on to be some of the most iconic in history. After being diagnosed with a debilitating disease, standing only about two years from his death, the man who had played more consecutive baseball games than anyone else ever had gave this brief speech:
“For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. 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.
“When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such a fine looking men as they’re standing in uniform in this ballpark today? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider 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 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 might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
In so many ways, this really is a beautiful and touching speech!
Gehrig acknowledges how special it is to play the game of baseball while surrounded by people who love you and support you and want to help you succeed. He acknowledges how great it is to have a family that sacrifices for you to help you get where you are. Considering his illness, these really are impressive words.
After reading this, I asked my students, “What is missing?” Without hesitation, one bright young lady said, “He didn’t mention God! He thanked everyone but Him.”
That is exactly the answer I was looking for. I don’t know anything about the faith of Lou Gehrig, but I know he missed an opportunity. If you watch the black and white footage or you read the transcript, you are left feeling like something is missing. In times of triumph or times of despair, it is always good to acknowledge the blessings of God (Phil. 4:12-13).
I would much rather be blessed than to be lucky!
South Green Street church of Christ