To commemorate one of the greatest speeches in American history, the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center has opened a new exhibit, “The Luckiest Man,” a tribute to Lou Gehrig’s iconic farewell 75 years ago.
The simplicity and humility of Gehrig’s speech still resonate today, especially with the heightened awareness of the terrible disease that claimed his life, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The exhibit contains artifacts and rare photos of Gehrig’s life and career, which is forever remembered by his stepping reluctantly in front of the microphone before 61,000 at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939 and calling himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
The Yankee captain, the son of German immigrants and one of the gentlest men ever to wear a major-league uniform, had played in a record 2,130 consecutive games, belted 493 home runs while compiling a batting average of .340.
At the time, he was 36 years old and dying, yet insisted that his disease would not rob him of all the good fortune, good friends and great love he had enjoyed throughout his short life.
The exhibit also tells the story of another stricken baseball captain – former Boston College star Pete Frates – whose courage in the face of tragedy helped inspire the viral Ice Bucket Challenge, the national phenomenon that has generated greater awareness and raised well over $100 million for ALS research. Frates was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2012.
Like Gehrig, Frates, now 29, considers himself blessed to have played the game he loved and to be supported by family and friends. Thanks to the power of social media, Frates now has thousands of voices speaking on his behalf, reflecting Gehrig’s humanity and legacy of raising awareness of a devastating disease.
The exhibit runs through Dec. 1. The Museum is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 noon to 5 p.m.