Shortly following Lou Gehrig’s retirement from baseball, due to his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the Yankees declared July 4, 1939 “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.” On this day, Gehrig delivered his now-historic “Luckiest Man” speech to the fans of Yankee Stadium. During that ceremony, Gehrig’s teammates presented him with a trophy, and on that trophy they had the following poem, written by John Kiernan, engraved.
To LOU GEHRIG
We’ve been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.
Idol of cheering millions,
Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you
Decked you with laurel leaves.
But higher than that we hold you,
We who have known you best;
Knowing the way you came through
Every human test.
Let this be a silent token
Of lasting Friendship’s gleam,
And all that we’ve left unspoken;
Your Pals of the Yankees Team.
On April 26, 1931, with Lyn Lary as the runner on first base and two out in the inning, Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig hit a home run at Griffith Stadium. The homer cleared the centerfield fence, but then bounced back into the hands of Senators centerfielder Harry Rice. Lary, thinking the ball had been caught, returned to the dugout without ever crossing home plate. Gehrig, who had been running the bases with his head down, did not notice what happened and ended up getting called out for passing a runner on the base paths.
The incident ended up costing Gehrig the home run crown, as he and Babe Ruth finished the season tied with 46 homers a piece.
The New York Highlanders (later known as the Yankees) played their first game in as a New York City team on April 22, 1903. The Highlanders lost their opener to Washington, 3-1, at Hilltop Park in front of 11,950 fans. Pitcher Jack Chesbro took the loss, but he would finish the season with a 21-15 record (.583) and an ERA of 2.77.
Here’s a fun little comic by Molly Lawless about that moment when Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak began. Whatever the story behind Pipp’s sitting out that day, you can’t help but feel for the guy.
The New York Yankees played their first game at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923 in front of more than 72,000 fans. Babe Ruth hit the first home run of the new ballpark, a two-run shot off Red Sox pitcher Howard Ehmke, to help New York beat Boston, 4-1. The new $2.5 million ballpark was the first to feature three decks.
I’m not a headline guy. I know that as long as I was following Ruth to the plate I could have stood on my head and no one would have known the difference.
The Dodgers played their first game at Ebbets Field on April 5, 1913. 25,000 fans watched the exhibition against the Yankees as Brooklyn defeated New York, 3-2. Casey Stengel hit the new ballpark’s first home run, an inside-the-parker.