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“Happy” 75th Anniversary

by Nick Vitrano

Generally speaking, anniversaries are occasions for celebration. Tomorrow's 75th doesn't exactly qualify, though there is a glass-half-full analysis that applies to Lou Gehrig's departure from baseball (and life).

As a friend of mine (and a man whose baseball knowledge and passion I respect more than any other) pointed out in an e-mail:

Friday, July 4th, 2014 is the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's Farewell speech to Baseball. It has equalled or surpassed his on-field accomplishments, over the years (which is truly regrettable!).

Truer words have not been spoken, Fred. Lou Gehrig, for a new generation of professional baseball fan, is primarily known as the disease guy. Cal Ripken, Jr. is the Iron Man. Iron Horse? Is that a ride at Great America?

I don't fault the members of that generation. In fact, as an elder of that generation, that failure is on me. It's our job to keep alive the past, to preserve, through oratory, the men who laid the foundation of greatness against which we measure and elevate our on-field heroes of today.

But there's irony in the treatment of "the disease guy." Gehrig's black and white, reverberating address for which he is most known, is a brilliant tribute to winning the greater game...the game of life. The grace and humility with which Gehrig approached his departure from this world is the stuff of "based on real events" television dramas. You know, the ones in which the facts are pretty much that, but not nearly as impressive? But Gehrig's message needs no artificial infusion of inspiration. It stands up on its own merit, a testament to the fact that one cannot control how the world treats him, only his reaction to it.

How to lose. It's the most valuable lesson I learned, the most impressive growth I experienced during my time as an athlete. For those who choose to embrace the hurdles of life, there is immeasurable victory in defeat. If I had to pick one, I'd rather Gehrig be known for his message than his greatness between the lines.

"Happy" anniversary, Lou. Try not to well up when you watch MLB's tribute:

Tease Image: By TheGuyWithTheGlasses (The Guy With The Glasses) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons