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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Emotional farewell for "luckiest man on earth"
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

July 4, 1939

A little more than two months after Lou Gehrig played his final game, less than a month after he had learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the New York Yankees hold "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day." There is Gehrig, surrounded by his teammates from the 1927 and 1939 Yankees, taking his cut at the microphone.

Shaken with emotion, he fights back tears as he keeps his eyes focused on the ground. For a moment it looks as if Gehrig won't make it to the plate. But manager Joe McCarthy whispers a few words to his favorite player, and Gehrig regains his composure. In a moment later captured by the Hollywood film "The Pride of the Yankees" starring Gary Cooper, Gehrig delivers an emotional farewell address, speaking slowly and stressing the appreciation he feels for all that is being done for him.

"For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got," he says. "Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

There aren't many dry eyes in the place when Gehrig concludes. The 61,808 fans and his former teammates know they have been touched in a way they might never be again. After the tumult and shouting and crying ends, and the second game of the doubleheader is finished, Gehrig walks out of Yankee Stadium with catcher Bill Dickey. With confidence in his voice, he tells his close friend, "Bill, I'm going to remember this day for a long time."

Less than two years later, Gehrig will die at age 37.

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