Why do you think they moved his locker to the Hall of Fame? I mean, a locker? Isn’t that a set-up for a one-liner?
Irony is defined in Wikipedia as “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.”
Here then from his remarkable farewell speech:
“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”
Following his retirement, he wrote “I intend to hold on as long as possible, and then if the inevitable comes, I will accept it philosophically and hope for the best. That’s all we can do.”
Seems quite the irony that Henry Louis Gehrig was nicknamed the Iron Horse. Yes, he was well known for his durability as well as his prowess as a hitter. He was an All Star seven years in a row, Triple Crown winner, Most Valuable Player twice, member of six World Serieschampionship teams. Career batting average 340, 493 home runs, 1,995 runs batted in. First player ever to have his uniform retired by a team, the Yankees, only team he ever played for in the bigs. Elected quicker than anyone ever in history to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oh, and he played in 2,130 consecutive games. Number 4 because he batted in the clean up spot, behind the Bambino. Talk about night and day; fanciful and straight arrow – the Iron Horse and the Sultan of Swat… Not quite two peas and a pod, but what a one-two combination. Ah, such irony!
Lou was the only one of the four Gehrig kids even to survive infancy. His childhood was mired in poverty. His dad struggled with sobriety, and thus was challenged when it came to actually holding a job. Think of that for a moment… The irony that this son became the steady, reliable strong man, who kept playing, who stayed in the line up for so long, and was so consistent. How did Lou Gehrig manage to grow up at that time, in that setting, and become a quiet, self effacing, determined ball player…. but who they say was a mama’s boy?
His mother worked as a cook, a housemaid, and took in laundry. Christina was firmly devoted to her son. She was a forceful, vigorous person. Lou ran errands for her, delivered the laundry, and like his mom was not only dependable but carried a strong sense of duty combined no less with a genuine compulsion to work and work hard. Yet more irony?
They say Lou never played hooky, never missed a day of school, and never got into trouble. The son of these German immigrants, who came from so little, but he actually went to college before he was lured to the big leagues at the age of 20 when the Yankees offered him a salary of $2,000 for the remainder of the 1923 season, and a $1,500 signing bonus. Do you know how much money that was to Lou and his mom? Prayers answered, let’s put it that way. But did they change? Hardly.
Oh the greatest irony that this formidable individual was taken down by a disease that now bears his name. A disease that leaves you mentally intact, while it gradually dismantles your nervous system. Why would that disease happen to this guy? Is it supposed to inform us that none of us is other than mere mortal? He had to die at 37?
Thirty seven? Really? There’s some reason for this?
Stephen Hawking had a rare form of early-onset slow-progressing Lou Gehrig disease. Another truly incredible person, Stephen Hawking, who thankfully lived a lot longer than Lou. Even so, with that genius, with his remarkable intellect and what he shared and taught us, Mr. Hawking had to endure the disease? Really?
You may have read recently about the Oakland A’s Stephen Piscotty, and the touching ovation he got from the crowd when he returned after his mother’s death for his first at bat. She was taken by ALS as well. Here is a link to the very moving video, a reminder about baseball fans as well – we care about a lot of things because it is all family for us: http://khtk.com/watch-emotional-stephen-piscotty-receives-ovation-return-mothers-death/.
You ask what causes this dreaded disease? Some have conjectured Lou got hit in the head a few too many times by errant pitches. Remember, players did not wear helmets in those days. But Stephen Hawking didn’t get beaned. He didn’t play baseball…
What an irony when Lou said, at his emotional farewell: “Fans, for the past two weeks, you’ve been reading about a bad break. (pause) Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…”
Luckiest man on the face of earth, who was gone two years later. Of course: Gone but not forgotten. Missed, but not forgotten.
We owe it to Lou to cure ALS, that much I can say, that and irony be damned!
Below is the inscription on the trophy presented to Mr. Gehrig on that July 4th day at Yankee Stadium, where the luckiest man on earth stood before a sold-out crowd:
“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.”
Maybe the irony of the Iron Horse is the lesson that we must learn to let things go, or find a way to accept them.
Well, like I said before… irony be damned!