Twins honor Lou Gehrig 75 years after his 'luckiest man' speech

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At Target Field on Friday, the Twins and the Yankees remembered Yankees icon Lou Gehrig, exactly 75 years after the hitter gave his now-famous speech that ushered in the fight against the disease that bears his name.

WCCO noted that the Twins have a longstanding connection to the fight against the disease now known as ALS. Both Twins Hall of Famer Kent Hrbek and coach Terry Steinbach lost their fathers to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease that has no cure.

“The big push is to try and get a cure and name it after Lou Gehrig instead of having a disease named after you,” said Hrbek, who founded ALS Minnesota to raise money to find a cure.

The Star Tribune noted that Steinbach, whose father died of ALS in 1999, has raised millions in the fight against ALS through his involvement in the annual Blizzard Tour snowmobile ride.

“Who knows how many thousands of people have benefited specifically because Lou Gehrig had the disease," Steinbach said. "In that way, he’s still a hero today."

It was on July 4 in a retirement ceremony during a double header at Yankee Stadium that the 37-year-old Gehrig gave his goodbye speech, noted for its grace and gratitude.

“I may have been given a bad break,” Gehrig famously said, “but I have an awful lot to live for.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that weeks before his speech, Gehrig had pulled himself out of the Yankees' lineup to visit the Mayo Clinic, where he was got the fateful diagnosis. Doctors told him he probably had no more than a few years to live.Before that, the "Iron Horse" had played in a record-setting 2,130 consecutive games, hitting 493 home runs and driving in 1,995 runs.

“It was a hugely important speech, because it was the first time such a public figure had revealed his vulnerability. And not just revealed it, but confronted it, challenged it,” Jonathan Eig, author of the Gehrig biography, “Luckiest Man,” told the Star Tribune. “He captured, beautifully and succinctly, his enthusiasm and appreciation for life. To step up and acknowledge his problems, and to do it in a brave and optimistic way, it changed a lot of people’s views about Gehrig and about facing hardship or death.”

The Slate.com podcast The Gist included an interview with Eig, who shared the little-known story of what Gehrig did after he left baseball: the Yankees legend became a parole officer, working as a civil servant until he could no longer climb the steps to his office.

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