6:00 AM, Jul 4, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
For the last couple years, the boss has recommended a few important speeches on and about July 4 from Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Lou Gehrig. All are worth revisiting, but earning special mention this year is Gehrig's July 4 farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. On this day 75 years ago, the first basemen retired from the game he loved in front of the fans who loved him.
His amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the disease so associated with the man that it now popularly bears his name, had begun to destroy his body. But in his address, which he made in between double-header games, Gehrig humbly spoke of himself as the "luckiest man on the face of the earth."
Richard Sandomir of the New York Times reflects on the words of Gehrig's speech and how we came to remember them through Gary Cooper's honest portrayal of the Iron Horse in the 1942 film The Pride of the Yankees. Here's an excerpt:
Far from the United States, more than a year after the release of Pride, Cooper would begin to grasp the importance of the "luckiest man" speech. In October 1943, Cooper traveled to the South Pacific with actresses Una Merkel and Phyllis Brooks to entertain American troops. "I was the comic relief," he told the Saturday Evening Post, acting out Jack Benny scripts the soldiers had not yet heard. "Me, as Jack Benny!" he exclaimed.
One night in Port Moresby, New Guinea, he was dozing in his tent when a cloudburst threatened to cancel the night's show. But 15,000 troops were waiting on a muddy slope. So Cooper, Merkel and Brooks headed to the stage covered with canvas tarps, along with accordionist Andy Arcari. When they finished their act, a soldier shouted, "Hey, Coop, how about Lou Gehrig's farewell speech to the Yankees?" The soldiers had recently seen Pride, so it was not a surprise that more troops demanded he play the Iron Horse again.
"The boys began to shout in union for the farewell speech," he said. He asked that they let him step inside a tent, to give him time to remember the speech as well as he could. "I don't want to leave out anything," he said he told them. As he jotted down the words, a tent pole slipped, and rain poured down his neck. Finally, with the speech done, he came out and recited it. "It was a silent bunch that listened to it," he wrote.
After that, he said, no matter where the troupe went on their 24,000-mile tour -- to Doddura, Milen Bay, Goodenough Island, Hollandia, Lae and Darwin -- new requests came for the speech. "They were the words of a brave American who had only a short time to live," Cooper later recalled, "and they meant to something to those kids in the Pacific."
Read the whole piece here, and after that, watch Major League Baseball's tribute, which features Gehrig's most famous lines spoken by each of the league's starting first basemen:
Former big-league pitcher Dirk Hayhurst tears apart baseball’s unwritten rules.12:05 PM, Jun 6, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Recently at a funeral for a catcher dead too young at the age of 55, his college teammates recalled his showboating antics. One game, they recalled, the catcher homered his first time up. Watching the ball sail off into the distance, he tossed the bat away dramatically, embarked on an emphatic trot, and for the coup de grace sang out loud in his Boston accent, “Goodnight, Irene!”
4:33 PM, May 1, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Over at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff asks, “Who was that cranky old man and why did he ice Kevin Durant?” That “cranky old man” would be Joey Crawford, the 62-year-old referee who grabbed the ball and ran over to the scorers’ table Tuesday night after Durant hit his first free throw with 27 seconds remaining, closing the margin to one point. The Memphis Grizzlies were leading Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder 100-99, but Crawford’s move effectively iced the 87 percent free-throw shooting Durant who went on to miss his next shot, costing the Thunder the game.
11:33 AM, Apr 22, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
As I noted a few weeks ago, the introduction of widespread instant replay into major league baseball threatened to do serious damage to how the game is played and enjoyed. That damage arrives in ways that replay's proponents simply failed—or refused—to countenance.
Will he, won’t he, should he be in the Hall of Fame? Apr 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 30 • By EDWARD ACHORN
Do we really need another book about Pete Rose?
12:28 PM, Apr 9, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
As the Boston Red Sox collected their World Series rings last Friday, Boston faithful had much to be thankful for. And among those to whom they owed more than a little thanks was Bill James, the team's official analytical guru, who enjoyed an increased role in team decision-making after the team fell to pieces in 2012.
3:49 PM, Mar 31, 2014 • By ADAM J. WHITE
In The Great Debate and elsewhere, Yuval Levin describes the fundamental difference between conservatives and progressives, rooted in the debates of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine:
1:27 PM, Nov 27, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Everyone could use a nice government subsidy and bailouts aren’t just for broke car companies and derelict banks anymore. Baseball teams need that same kind of taxpayer love. No surprise then, as Mark Segraves of NBC’s channel 4 in Washington reports:
Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
What if everything we think we know about the history of baseball is wrong? What if despite the carefully cultivated image of its manly origins—long mustachios and tobacco-juice-stained vests—it was a game played by women as well as men? What if the game was invented 100 years before Abner Double-day allegedly took bat to ball? And, perhaps most astonishing, what if our national pastime was first played in England?
Is the Atlanta Braves' Andrelton Simmons the best ever?3:36 PM, Sep 16, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
Of the 39 most awesome jobs in America, only the nine members of the Supreme Court have lifetime tenure. Major League Baseball’s 30 shortstops, on the other hand, are always looking over their shoulder. Every ground ball in the hole, every slow roller dribbling past the mound, every relay throw from the outfield is another test, another risk to be replaced by some slick-fielding Dominican phenom lighting up Double-A ball. Still, it’s safe to say that Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons’s job is his for some time to come, for the 24-year-old has established himself as the best defensive shortstop in the game. Indeed, some are already wondering if, in only his second year of big league ball, Simmons has entered the pantheon of baseball’s greatest glovemen, taking his place among the likes of Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio, and Mark Belanger.
Dead trees, junk cars, and dim, dim streetlights.11:06 AM, Sep 4, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press, writes about some of the obstacles in Detroit's way if it is to show its best face come the "invasion by the nation’s media in October for baseball playoffs and, hopefully, a World Series."
How one national pastime (baseball) has been injured by another (the law).Sep 2, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 48 • By EDWARD ACHORN
For decades, the lords of big-league baseball scrambled to protect their antitrust exemption, warning that the professional game would fall apart if the owners could not conspire against free markets to run it their way. Most of all, they wanted to protect the reserve clause, under which a player was bound to one club as long as that club wanted him rather than permitted to sell his services to the highest bidder.
1:58 PM, Aug 6, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
Monday night, Alex Rodriguez singled in his first at-bat of the season—which for Rodriguez may end as early as Thursday, when Major League baseball intends to enforce its 211-game suspension of him that will include the remainder of the 2013 campaign and all of 2014. With the 12-time All-Star third-baseman turning 38 on Saturday, it may be that a ballplayer once believed capable of breaking many of the game’s most famous records has now entered his last week of big-league baseball.