How to Live Life with Honor; How to Die with Grace. Lou Gehrig Taught Us All

Today in History, April 30, 1939:

“The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth.”

Lou Gehrig played his 2,130th consecutive game in major league baseball, and his last.

A member of the original New York Yankees “Murderer’s Row” (1927), by ’39 Gehrig’s health was obviously failing and in his last game he failed to hit a single ball.

Two days later he walked up to the coach Joe McCarthy, “I’m benching myself, Joe.”

The fans were in shock when it was announced that Gehrig would not be playing. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that slowly degraded the body, but fiendishly left the mind entirely in tact, now know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

1939 was an eventful year…Hitler’s Nazi party was preparing to take over Europe, war raged in the Orient, Gone with the Wind took to the silver screen.

But after the news about Lou Gehrig spread, July 4th was designated Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.

Fans, dignitaries, teammates and the press filled Yankee Stadium beyond capacity and the country watched. After Babe Ruth and many others gave their tributes, Lou stepped to the microphone and announced that he was the Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth, in spite of “catching a bad break”. There wasn’t a dry eye in stadium, likely few in the country.

The Grapes of Wrath

Today in History, April 14, 1939:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is first published and would become iconic, capturing the hearts of those that had lived through the Great Depression in the preceding years.

The novel told the story of the Joads, one of many Oklahoma families driven off of their farms by the Dust Bowl and bankers who evicted them when they couldn’t raise crops to pay mortgages. Like so many others, the family was forced to leave Oklahoma for California, where they were derisively called “Okies”, to seek work as laborers in order to survive.

My father (who lived through it) used to counter that the migration of the “Okies” from Oklahoma to California had greatly increased the intelligence level of both states.