clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankees Top Moments: (#1) Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech vs (#2) Don Larsen's perfect game

The Luckiest Man speech or Larsen's World Series perfecto? Which gets your vote as the better Yankees moment?


The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament enters the third and final round of the founding-1959 bracket. The moment with the most votes moves on to the semifinals against the winner of the 1960-79 bracket. Vote for the moment that deserves to move on in the poll below.

(#1) Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" Speech

On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig stepped to the microphone at Yankee Stadium on Lou Gehrig Day after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that would later be known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease put an early end to the Iron Horse's career, also forcing an end to Gehrig's consecutive game streak at 2,130 games from June 1, 1925 to May 2, 1939 because of his deteriorating health.

After announcing his retirement on June 21, Gehrig made his famous speech in front of more than 60,000 fans between games of a double header against the Senators on Independence Day. In the emotional farewell, Gehrig thanked the fans for their kindness and encouragement following his grim diagnosis, and claimed himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth", which would become one of the most iconic sports moments in history. Gehrig closed his speech with the similarly famous line, "So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for", before being joined at the microphone by his Murderer's Row partner, Babe Ruth.

By the time Gehrig made his famous speech, his condition had already worsened considerably. His number 4 was retired by the Yankees, earning him the honor as the first baseball player to have their number retired in baseball. In December of 1939, Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame in a special vote by the Baseball Writers Association as the second-youngest player ever to be voted in. Gehrig passed away in 1941, exactly 16 years after he famously took over for Wally Pipp in the Yankees' lineup to begin his great consecutive game streak.

The Luckiest Man speech is much more than just an iconic player's farewell to the game of baseball, instead representing a dying man showing grace and humility in the face of a tragic illness that ended his career and life all too soon. Gehrig walked away because his condition made him feel like he was hurting his team, but as his manager told him on the day of his famous speech, he was never that.

Entry written by Tanya Bondurant on November 19, 2013.

(#2) Larsen's Perfect Game

Don Larsen wasn't the ace of the 1956 Yankees' staff. The 27-year-old San Diego native made just 20 starts all season and gave up four walks and four runs in an inning and two thirds in game two of the World Series. Fans had to feel more than a bit nervous on October 8th when he took the Yankee Stadium hill for Game Five with the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers tied at two wins apiece. Two hours and nine innings later, though, Brooklyn's line score was zero-zero-zero and Yogi Berra was jumping for joy into Larsen's arms after catching the only perfect game in postseason history.

Even as Larsen cut through a Dodger lineup that featured four future Hall of Famers, victory was never a sure thing. Sal Maglie nearly matched his performance allowing just five hits and two runs over eight strong frames. A Mickey Mantle homer in the fourth and a Hank Bauer RBI in the sixth were the difference as Larsen remained unscathed into the ninth. Carl Furillo led off with a fly out to right then Roy Campanella grounded to second. Dale Mitchell struck out swinging for the final out on a one-two pitch, Larsen's 97th of the afternoon.

Two days later the Yankees won a decisive game seven and earned their seventeenth World Championship. Larsen's is one of 21 perfect games ever thrown, and at the time it was the first in 34 years. A total of 53 more seasons would pass before a pitcher again managed a no-hitter in the playoffs when Roy Halladay did it in the NLDS in 2010, but no one else has touched October perfection.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Entry written by Harlan Spence on November 20, 2013.