View Full Version : From the NY Post Archives: Gehrig's Farewell

12-03-01, 12:45 AM
I really like this article.... a lot. Gives you a whole new perspective on Lou Gehrig Day. I've always wondered how the color columnists back then covered an event like this!



By JACK MILEY - The Post, July 5, 1939



Your friends never toss you a dinner until you're able to buy your own. Lou Gehrig found this out yesterday, when the Yanks upped and tossed him a testimonial party that turned the Stadium into a vast vale of tears. Everybody cried and a good time was had by all.

The Iron Man melted in a fit of weeping. In the 2,130 games he had played with the Yankees in 15 years, nobody had been able to make him whimper by spiking him, beaning him, crashing into him and knocking him dizzy on the base paths, or by manhandling and roughing him up in devious ways that are in the kit of tricks of every red-necked, horny-handed baseballer.

But the shouts of 61,808 fans who had come there especially to honor him in one of those mawkishly sentimental hail-and-farewell fiestas made the Durable One break down and bawl like a baby with a safety pin stuck in his diapers. They even had your correspondent sniveling, which doesn't happen often.

Big Lou's ordeal was, he said later, the toughest thing he had to face in his long and illustrious career. "I was scared silly," admitted Gehrig, who used to face World Series crowds without batting an eye.

"I'd have rather struck out in the ninth with the score tied, two down and the bases loaded than walk out there before all those grand people. It's the only time I've been frightened on a ball field!"

And if the fans didn't break his heart with their thunderous ovation, the players did. A lump as big as a billiard rose in Lou's throat when he saw those oldsters of 1927 - the greatest Yankee team ever assembled, according to Babe Ruth - march out to the flagpole and raise the Series flag they'd won that year.

Gehrig whipped a tent-like handkerchief from his hip pocket and dabbed at his eyes when the sight of these grand vets turned back the clock for him.

All afternoon until the hour of his ordeal approached, Gehrig slumped and fidgeted on the Yankee bench and moaned to manager Joe McCarthy: "I'd give a month's pay to get out of this. It's swell, and all that; but, gosh, I wish I were far, far away!"

It was Lou's room mate, Bill Dickey, who suggested: "Well, I think if you pushed ump Bill McGowan around and called him a few nasty names, he'd accomodate you and chase you right out of the park!"

When he finally did step up to take his cut at this Fourth of July oratory, Lou's face was as white as your shirt. He had a peculiar, shuffling, flat-footed gait as he hobbled out to face his public.

He hung his head to conceal his tears and his big, broad shoulders shook with emotion as he got the wildest welcome ever given any ball player anywhere.

Holding his cap in his hands and keeping his gaze on the ground, Gehrig swayed and seemed about to fall when Ed Barrow, Yank boss, thrust an arm about his waist and whispered comforting words in his ear. Joe McCarthy bolstered him on the other side.

Lou was showered with enough silver plate to open a Larchmont branch of Tiffany's. He got scrolls and other knicknacks.

Everybody who could get a headlock on a microphone, from Jim Farley and Mayor LaGuardia down, told him in fulsome phrases what a great guy he is - something we've all known right along.

The whole thing, which was supposed to be gay and festive, was sad and depressing. Everywhere you looked up in the jammed stands, you saw a flutter of handkerchiefs. The speakers choked up. Joe McCarthy's wife, in a field box with Mrs. Lou, wept openly.

But Eleanor Gehrig fought back her tears. She was pale and unsmiling, but like Mr. G., she's a gamester. She blinked suspiciously, though, when Lou said, in a dramatic, straight-from-the-heart speech of thanks he managed to gulp out:

" . . . When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength, and shown more courage than you ever dreamed existed - that's the finest thing I know!"

There were so many tears shed they'd have to call the second game of the Yanks-Washington doubleheader on account of wet grounds, if it hadn't been for a sun-tanned, pumpkin-faced giant in a flappy white suit who barged into the obsequies and began kidding the sobbing guest of honor.

For along came Ruth! What he whispered to Gehrig nobody will ever know, probably some Rabelaisian gag the Babe used to spring in the smoker of the Yank special, when he and Lou were with the team of '27.

But leave it to big, fat, jovial Babe - it did the work! Gehrig's face brightened, those famous dimples flashed and he burst out laughing. Ruth slapped him on the back, he clasped baseball's most famous invalid in a bear hug and Lou's ceremonial was a success.

A great fellow, that Ruth, and always the life of the party! Gehrig's doctors, besides their medical treatment for Lou, could do worse than prescribe an occasional visit by the Babe. The huge, good-natured oaf is an animated tonic, a walking builder-upper.

I don't know why they're wailing goodbyes to Gehrig. For Lou isn't going anywhere. He's staying right here with us and his beloved Yanks. Shucks, he wouldn't know what to do with himself anyplace else.

He pulled a classic when he said: "I'm the luckiest man on earth!" He must be, too, for he's got 61,808 friends, which is a powerful pile of pals. A guy'd be a sucker to walk out on them.

Sit down on that bench, Gehrig, and keep quiet!

12-03-01, 09:23 AM
I've often wondered about those articles myself...what an awesome article -- thanks for posting it!! :) I wish I knew that man...

12-03-01, 09:30 AM

My kingdom for a time machine...

Sixty one
12-03-01, 04:25 PM
What a terrific article! As I was reading this story, I was picturing the famous film of his speech and trying to imagine what it must have been like to have been there. One has to remember that this was before tv and therefore, you either heard it on the radio, if it was broadcast, or saw the film in a theatre sometime in the future. I wonder if there is another article from the News or the Times? This was great to read!:) :) :NY: :NY: :NY: :NY: