December 5, 2021


As we celebrated yesterday with barbecues and firecrackers another anniversary of our independence, another date was also remembered. Seventy five years ago, in Yankee stadium, a famed baseball player dubbed “the iron man” was retiring. Lou Gehrig since childhood wanted to be a baseball player for the New York Yankees. Against the wishes of his mother and after playing ball in Columbia University, he accomplished his dream. Somewhat clumsy in his first at bat, he rapidly became a star for a team, Yankees, that had a plethora of them. His baseball records, to this day, are outstanding, and his staying power demonstrated by his consecutive games of 2,130 games played that lasted until being recently broken by Carl Ripken. At the prime of his career, he was diagnosed with a rather unknown illness Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), described in 1869 by a French neurologist, Dr. Charcot.

Since the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig in 1939, this debilitating and fatal illness is known as “Lou Gehrig disease”. In front of an overflowing stadium and in a speech that exhibited the modesty, human value, and love from this extraordinary player and human being, Gehrig said “fans, for the last two weeks you have been reading of the bad break I got. Yet, today I consider myself the luckiest man in the face of the earth”. He followed those immortal words by giving thanks to the fans, his teammates, his adoring wife and his family. For all the lovers of the sport of baseball, I recommend to look for and enjoy the movie “The Pride of the Yankees”, based on Gehrig’s life, with Gary Cooper as star, where the totality of his memorable goodbye speech is delivered. As a young boy I saw the movie and the memories from that experience still moist my eyes.

Fernando J Milanes MD