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Yankees Top Moments: (#1) Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech vs. (#3) Bucky F'in Dent

Two franchise-defining moments go head-to-head. Will Gehrig's speech or Bucky's blast advance to the finals?

WikiCommons and Jim McIsaac

The Pinstripe Alley Top Moments Tournament enters the semifinals. The moment with the most votes moves on to the finals against the winner of the 1980-99 & 2000-present matchup. 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.

(#3) Bucky F'in Dent

Preface: There aren't enough words in the galaxy to properly describe the awesomeness of this moment.

The Yankees were defending champions heading into the '78 season, seeking to win their third AL pennant in a row to boot. However, those were the days of the "Bronx Zoo," and clubhouse tension was worse than ever during the first half. Injuries plagued the team, egos collided, and by July 17th, the Yankees were 47-42, a deflating 14 1/2 games behind the first place Red Sox. They had just been swept by the rival Royals at home, and they were 18-27 since Memorial Day. The Yankees' fortunes began to change with a five-game winning streak, followed by troubled manager Billy Martin's resignation from his position on July 23rd in Chicago. Martin was replaced by Bob Lemon, a player's manager who brought some calm to the clubhouse.

From the time Lemon took over the team on July 25th, the Yankees went an outstanding 47-20, a .702 winning percentage that surged them up the AL East standings. Boston slumped, and the Yankees emphasized their return to the pennant race by humiliating the Red Sox in the "Boston Massacre," a four-game sweep at Fenway Park from September 7-10 that tied them atop the division. Eventually, the teams ended the season still tied at 99-63. A coin flip determined that they would play a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the division title.

Ron Guidry started for the Yankees on three days' rest. "Louisiana Lightning" had one of the most electric pitching seasons in the history of the game in '78, and his regular season ended that day with a staggering 1.74 ERA, 208 ERA+, 0.946 WHIP, and 9.6 rWAR. He was not quite as sharp as normal though; he surrendered a solo homer to Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski to lead off the second and a Jim Rice single in the sixth made the score 2-0, Boston. Former Yankee Mike Torrez blanked his old teammates through six innings, but ran into trouble on back-to-back one-out singles by Chris Chambliss and Roy White. Jim Spencer popped out, bringing up light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent. He was never much of a hitter, only exceeding a 90 OPS+ once over 11 full seasons of play. He had hit just four homers on the season, but after breaking his bat on a foul off his ankle to make it 0-2, Dent borrowed Mickey Rivers's bat and silenced the raucous crowd at Fenway Park:

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No one saw Dent's three-run dinger coming. Suddenly, the Yankees had a 3-2 lead via the 64% shift in WPA from Dent's fly ball over the Monster. The Yankees needed the two insurance that followed, as they narrowly survived a scare in the ninth inning caused by the afternoon sun blinding right fielder Lou Piniella. A one-out, one-on single bounced in front of Piniella, who couldn't see it and luckily stuck his glove out to cut it off. The tying run was stranded in scoring position, and Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage closed it out on Yaz's pop-up to Graig Nettles at third. After dealing perhaps the most crushing blow in the history of their long rivalry with Boston, the Yankees went on to win the '78 World Series to secure their 22nd championship.

Even though rumors claim that the Red Sox eventually broke their series of bad luck against the Yankees (unconfirmed), generations of Boston fans still revile "Bucky F'in Dent."

Entry written by Andrew Mearns on November 27, 2013.