Iron Horse

NEW YORK Yankee Lou Gehrig will be one of 12 deceased players honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony July 28. He was inducted into the HofF in 1939, but never had a formal induction.

Gehrig set records as a Yankee from 1923-1939. He received his first professional contract from the team the same year that Yankee Stadium was completed.

Often known as “The Iron Horse” because of his strength and endurance, Gehrig had other nicknames, and sportswriter Jim Murray referred to him as the “Gibraltar in Cleats.”

Gehrig set a consecutive game streak of 2,130 games during his career, and that record stood until 1995 when it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr.

A real professional, he played despite problems such as a broken thumb, a broken toe and back spasms.

But, it was an illness to which his name is given that led to his retirement from baseball and his death two years later. He suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a devastating disease that strips nerve cells of their ability to interact with the body’s muscles. Sometimes called ALS, it’s better known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

On his retirement, Major League Baseball circumvented its own rules and immediately inducted him into the HofF at Cooperstown. Also, the Yankees retired his uniform, and he was the first baseball player to receive this honor.

JULY 28 won’t be the only notable July event regarding Gehrig His farewell speech given July 4, 1939, often is called the greatest speech in baseball, and it began: “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. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.”

He praised many others, including a mother-in-law who took sides with him during his squabbles with her daughter, and also lauded his wife’s courage and referred to her as “a tower of strength.”

Gehrig not only was a great baseball player but he was an admirable person displaying an attitude worth following. Like Abraham Lincoln, he apparently believed – “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”