Murray Becker, Associated Press
Friday marks the 75th anniversary of one of the greatest speeches in baseball history as Lou Gehrig sadly announced his retirement from baseball.
The “Luckiest Man” speech isn’t just one of — if not the greatest — speeches in sports history, it’s one of the most iconic moments in baseball history. Seventy-five years later, it makes fans appreciate what’s given in life, and not what’s taken away.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of this iconic speech, let’s take a look at 10 of the most iconic moments in baseball history.
No. 10 – “The Flip” (2001)
I believe this moment will only grow with time. Derek Jeter is still making memories, but when we reflect on his career, this play will resonate even further. When his career does end, we’ll go back and think, “Why was Jeter there?”
Jeter should’ve, by all means, been on the other side of the field, but was there to pick up two cutoff men on an overthrow to the plate and, in one stride, flip the ball from his position on the first base line to Jorge Posada at the plate to nab Jeremy Giambi at the plate. Of course it’s a fantastic, unbelievable play, but even more so in a one-run playoff like it was.
It’s one of those plays Jeter made that’s what made him the Hall of Famer he will be. Though he has more hits than any Yankee in history and has multiple World Series rings, it’s a play like this that separates him into another level. It’s also a moment that reminds all players to pay attention to what’s going on at all times.
No. 9 – “Touch ’em all, Joe” (1993)
It’s special anytime you can end a World Series with a walk-off home run, and Joe Carter did just that in the 1993 World Series. Carter’s blast off Mitch Williams to give the Blue Jays back-to-back championships is one of the greatest endings one can ask for.
As Carter joyously skips around the bases with his arms held high, broadcaster Tom Cheek makes his famous “Touch ‘em all Joe, you’ll never hit a bigger home run” call on the radio. It’s a moment that’s fit for a Hollywood script ending.
Much like Joe Carter, Bill Mazeroski ended the World Series with one swing of the bat. Unlike Carter, Mazeroski’s was in the decisive Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. In one of the wildest postseason games in history, the Pittsburgh Pirates trailed the New York Yankees 7-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Pirates scored five runs to take a 9-7 lead into the final inning. However, the Yankees scored two in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 9.
Mazeroski then led off the bottom of the ninth with his walk-off shot to win the World Series for the Pirates. In doing so, he became the first player in baseball history to end a World Series with a walk-off home run. (Carter being the only other to do so).
When Carlton Fisk hit this, Boston was still in the middle of its championship curse. So when the ball was headed for foul territory, Fisk was willing to do anything for the ball to land in fair territory. It did, although it wasn’t enough to snap the curse. However, it did create a moment so iconic that every baseball fan knows this moment.
When Cal Ripken played his 2,131st consecutive game, baseball seemed to stop to take notice. The B & O Warehouse, a building behind Camden Yards, was lit with 2,131.
He, of course, did what he also did best that day, he hit a home run.
Who knows if Ripken’s streak will ever be broken.
Perhaps no baseball moment is re-enacted more in beer league softball games than Kirk Gibson’s fist pump as rounded the bases on one of the most improbable home runs in baseball history. Gibson, with two bad legs, couldn't even come out to be introduced to start the World Series game. However, he came on to pinch-hit with two outs in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and smacked a walk-off home run to right anyway.
Legendary broadcasting voices Jack Buck and Vin Scully’s call added to the drama of the event. Buck's “I don’t believe what I just saw” line might be one of the best in baseball broadcasting history.
This is one of the greatest moments in baseball history. The New York Giants were the ultimate underdogs heading into a best of three with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League pennant. That’s because before that, the Giants were down by more than 10 games in the standings in August, but stormed back to force the pennant playoff by the end of the season.
The teams split the first two games of the series and the Giants entered the bottom of the ninth down 4-1, but managed to pull within two runs by the time Bobby Thompson approached the plate. Thompson then launched a three-run home run to cap one of the greatest comebacks in professional sports history.
An unforgettable scene ensued, with the team carrying Thompson off on their shoulders. At the same time, Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges was yelling at the top of his lungs “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” It’s moments like that that make baseball magical.
If Kirk Gibson’s fist pump isn’t the most re-enacted moment from baseball’s fans, then Babe Ruth’s legendary “called shot” has to be. It’s debated whether it actually happened or not, but as the tale famously goes, Ruth pointed to the outfield bleachers at Wrigley Field, and then jacked a homer in that direction on the next pitch.
Now sure, this moment is more mythical than anything else, but almost every kid that played Little League or sandlot ball imitated this moment at least once. It’s also been exaggerated in various movies and TV programs throughout the years.
Nothing beats a good mystery, and that’s why this moment, whether it happened in the 1932 World Series or not, is where the legend of Babe Ruth grows beyond his almighty statistics.
No. 2 – Lou Gehrig’s speech (1939)
Could you imagine one of the best baseball players in history to suddenly announce his retirement halfway through the season? How about if said player did it while still one of the biggest stars in the game? That’s exactly what Lou Gehrig did, and he did it in a time when nobody really knew the severity of the disease he had even though he truly didn't realize the full impact of it either.
A couple of weeks after officially retiring, Gehrig returned to Yankee Stadium to deliver one of the saddest, yet most genuinely special moments to happen on the diamond. “I truly consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” is not just arguably the greatest line from any baseball speech, it’s also one of the greatest lines in American history, especially knowing what he was up against.
ALS was an uncommon disease at the time. Gehrig was baseball’s “Iron Horse” and seemingly indestructible. In all reality, Gehrig probably even played his final year or two as a player with symptoms of ALS. But what made his speech so remarkable is how he knew what was ahead of him, but spoke about all the great things he was given. His words still give goosebumps to this day — 75 years later.
There is a moment that’s debated if it actually happened, but Dodgers’ Pee Wee Reese wrapped his arm around Jackie Robinson as fans were berating Robinson. Whether it happened or not, it’s the symbolic moment when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
Robinson opened the door for all diverse players to enter the majors for years to come.
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