'TWIB' to honor Gehrig in ALS special
'Iron Horse' gave 'Luckiest Man' speech 70 years ago
Every Fourth of July, there are fewer baseball fans in this country who remember what happened at Yankee Stadium on our nation's birthday 70 years ago. For those who were there, Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech has become more than just a significant moment in baseball history. It has transcended sports and is a part of this country's fabric.
That's why "This Week in Baseball," the longest-running sports serial in television history, has chosen to honor Gehrig and his speech on this week's episode. The timing is perfect -- Gehrig spoke behind home plate at the old Stadium on July 4, 1939. It is fitting that this year's Fourth of July falls on a Saturday, so "TWIB" -- airing on FOX at 3:30 p.m. ET -- can feature the speech on precisely its 70th birthday.
With Gehrig's speech celebrating a milestone and Major League Baseball's overall push to raise awareness for ALS, the disease that ultimately killed Gehrig at age 37, the "Iron Horse" and "TWIB" were a natural fit.
"He always played with Babe Ruth, so he was always the second man," lead producer Matt Anderton said. "But if he played with any other team, he would definitely have been the front man, so we're showcasing that."
On Saturday, all on-field personnel, including players, coaches, umpires and groundskeepers, will wear a "4♦ALS" patch. Additionally, the "4♦ALS" logo will appear on top of first base in each ballpark. Gehrig played first for the Yankees for 17 seasons. The bases will be auctioned off to raise more funds for ALS.
Gehrig finished his career prematurely with a lifetime batting average of .340, to go with 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs. Armed with Ruth hitting third and Gehrig fourth, the Yankees won six World Series titles between 1927-38. Gehrig hit .361 in postseason play. He also played in 2,130 consecutive games, a record broken in '95 by Baltimore's Cal Ripken, Jr.
In 1939, Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The illness has come now to be known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease." The Yankees held "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" on July 4 of that year, when he delivered his famous "Luckiest Man" speech. He died five months later.
"TWIB" has interviews with current players, including Milwaukee's Prince Fielder and Houston's Lance Berkman, talking about Gehrig's courage and effect on the game. The show will also feature his talent on the field and his consecutive games streak that earned him the nickname "The Iron Horse."
Finally, "TWIB" will air a spot highlighting MLB's ALS initiative and continue raising awareness for a disease that ended the life of an American hero too early.
"Lou Gehrig displayed tremendous courage and strength in the face of a debilitating illness, and his speech 70 years ago still stands as one of the defining moments in baseball history," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
Also featured on this week's show will be:
"Chevy All-Star Classics" will relive the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston, when the All-Century Team was announced -- a list that included Gehrig.
Pepsi's MLB Clutch Performer of the Month award will be given out for June, from a list of players that includes Boston's Josh Beckett, San Francisco's Tim Lincecum and Los Angeles' Andre Ethier.
Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.