We Americans love fireworks on the Fourth of July, but Friday also marks the 75th anniversary of another wonderful sight and sound -- Lou Gehrig's famous "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech at Yankee Stadium.
When people hear this speech in their heads, though, they don't hear Gehrig's voice -- they hear Gary Cooper delivering a slightly different version in "The Pride of the Yankees." That speech is one of my top five baseball movie speeches, all delivered by Academy Award winners. They are listed in chronological order.
1. Gary Cooper ("The Pride of the Yankees")
Portraying the Iron Horse, Cooper tells the crowd, "People all say that I've had a bad break. But today ... today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
2. Susan Sarandon ("Bull Durham")
Sarandon opens "Bull Durham" by explaining her religion. "I've tried them all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in and day out, is the church of baseball." Well put. Now if only season tickets could be considered tax-deductible charitable donations.
3. Kevin Costner ("Bull Durham")
Costner delivers his beliefs, including: "I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing AstroTurf and the designated hitter." But in "JFK," Costner argued, Oswald did NOT act alone. Whatever your take is on that, Crash was definitely right about AstroTurf.
4. James Earl Jones ("Field of Dreams")
Jones eloquently tells Ray Kinsella, played by Costner, that people will pay money to see his baseball field. "People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years has been baseball." He was right. The "Field of Dreams" movie site in Iowa draws tourists from around the world. And no luxury suites were needed.
5. Tom Hanks ("A League of Their Own")
Hanks reminds a player that "There is no crying in baseball." This is generally true -- baseball is fun! -- although this policy has not applied to Chicago Cubs fans for at least the past 100 years (and perhaps for years to come).