by Steve Adubato, PhD
There was a tremendous amount of feedback from readers in response to my column regarding the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech. The following is just a sampling:
Ira Antin from Succasunna has been a Lou Gehrig admirer and Yankees fan for a long time. Wrote Antin: "As a youngster, I saw Gehrig play in the old Yankee Stadium. I was even a vendor there when I was older. He was my hero, just as Derek Jeter is to the current fans today. ... Not only was Lou Gehrig a great baseball player, he was a truly great sportsman. He could take his triumphs with sincere modesty and could face tragedy with a smile. He stood for everything that makes sports important in the America we see today."
Ira, it is so interesting how certain sports figures or those in the entertainment field can have the potential to impact the larger society by how they conduct themselves under difficult circumstances. Gehrig is an extreme example of someone who faced adversity with poise, grace and courage. But he is clearly not alone. Sometimes people’s actions communicate more powerfully than anything they can say, but when you combine those actions with simple and eloquent words that resonate and connect, those images can last for generations. That is why we are still talking about Gehrig’s "Luckiest Man" speech 75 years later.
Al McIntosh from Manchester wrote in to say that at the age of 14 he was actually at Yankee Stadium when Gehrig gave his speech. Said McIntosh: "I was totally moved by the talk. It was a double header with the Washington Senators and Taft Wright hit the longest home run I ever saw into the right center field bleachers. ... Thanks for jogging my memory and for pointing out the depth and meaning of Gehrig’s words. He was a one-of-a-kind in many ways."
Al, how amazing that you were actually there for Gehrig’s speech at Yankee Stadium. It is one thing seeing the video of it, but actually being there must have been remarkable. It is further testament to how the image of someone communicating in a public forum like this can paint such a vivid and memorable picture that lasts a lifetime.
But not everyone thought I hit the mark in my column on Lou Gehrig’s speech. Donna York from Hillsborough was personally touched by ALS, as her father passed away of the disease in 2009. York started a nonprofit organization, HARK, in her dad’s memory to provide financial assistance to patients and their families. York felt that something was missing in my recent column and she makes a very valid point when she writes, "Those of us in the ALS community see Lou Gehrig as a blessing and a curse in terms of what people’s perception of ALS is. No one ever saw Lou Gehrig with a trach tube coming out of his throat, a feeding tube in his stomach or totally paralyzed except for the ability to move only his eyes, an ALS patient’s only means of communication. They just saw him make his famous speech and walk off the field for the last time. ...We take every opportunity to shine a light on ALS and make people aware of just how devastating it is. ...We filmed a documentary to help educate people about the disease, which can be found at www.hark-als.org."
I checked out the website and the trailer for the documentary, and both are highly educational, inspirational and valuable. I recommend readers check them out as well.