Monday, October 4, 2010

Lou Gehrig's "Farewell to Baseball Address" Analysis

Lou Gehrig was born on June 19th, 1903. As he grew up with his parents, Christina and Heinrich, he showed a talent for football and baseball. He was so talented in the game of baseball that the New York Yankees signed him after his sophomore year at the University of Columbia. When he joined the Yankees, he made an immediate impact, setting records that still hold today, but it came at a cause. Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that destroys the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, rendering that person unable to move. Lou Gehrig decided that it was time to walk away from baseball because of his eventually death. On July 4th, 1939, the New York Yankees honored their hero. Lou Gehrig was asked to make a speech to the many fans at Old Yankee Stadium. When he delivered his “Farewell to Baseball Address,” Lou Gehrig shows how humble he is to have played the game of baseball with many great people by using grateful language for his teammates and associates and a reassuring language for baseball fans who were worried about his fatal disease.

Fig. 1. Lou Gehrig is about to make his famous “Farewell to Baseball Address” to the fans at Old Yankee Stadium. New York, 4 July 1939 (

The speech has Lou Gehrig speaking about the many friends he’s made during his baseball career. He asked the fans, “Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?” to show how grateful he is to know these men. He constantly shows his gratitude to have known these people at the beginning of his speech. He exclaims that Manager Joe McCarthy is “the best manager in baseball today” and Ed Barrow was “the builder of baseball’s greatest empire” to show that he hasn’t taken for granite how lucky he is to play baseball, and it also shows the audience that he’s a thankful person and that makes him more appealing and likeable. He’s a down-to-earth person who doesn’t forget how fortunate he is.

Even though Lou Gehrig makes many references to his teammates and associates, the primary audiences are the fans at Old Yankee Stadium and baseball fans in general. The baseball world was concerned about Lou Gehrig getting ALS, later known as Lou Gehrig Disease, because, statistically, ALS claims its victims in two to five years. In the speech, Lou Gehrig refers to ALS as “a bad break” and only mentions it twice. He’s trying to down play the disease and not have the baseball fans worry so much about it. He’s lived a great life, and he doesn’t want everyone to be concerned. When he states, “I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for,” it’s him trying to convince the fans not to be overly concerned because life goes on for Lou Gehrig and he was proud of his life.

Overall, Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball Address” was a great speech and carried a lot of emotion. It has been considered the “Gettysburg Address” of baseball, and I think part of the reason is because the speech was said at Old Yankee Stadium. When Lou Gehrig spoke, there was a loud echo throughout the stadium. It really made the speech sound more booming and epic. It gave the speech more feeling and it made it feel alive. The speech is short, but it seems to carry so much with so little words. Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball Address” is a prime example of using a small amount of words to help get a large point across.

Work Cited

Gehrig, Lou. “Farewell to Baseball Address.” New York City, NY. 4 July 1939.

Works Consulted

Dowshen, Steven. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” KidsHealth from Nemours. The Nemours
Foundation, Aug 2009. Web. 1 Oct 2010.

Baseball Almanac. Adam Levine, 2000. Web. 1 Oct 2010.

The Official Website of Lou Gehrig. Rip Van Winkle Foundation, 26 Aug 2010. Web. 3 Oct 2010.