Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
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Gehrig had been forced to retire as a player two weeks earlier due to his being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the disease that today bears his name. But on this hot and muggy day he was being showered with kind words and numerous gifts, one of which remained a source of inspiration to his dying days and can be seen today at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Kieran would later write that longtime Yankees catcher Bill Dickey, Gehrig’s roommate on the road, approached him about writing the poem. “You know how we feel about Lou,” Dickey said to Kieran. “Can you put it in words that will go on a silver baseball statue we’re giving him?”
Kieran did know how the Yankees players felt about Gehrig and tried to put it into words for them. The Underwood typewriter Kieran used to write the poem is part of the Museum’s permanent collection.
“Admittedly that’s but a feeble interpretation of what the Yankee players felt about Lou Gehrig,” Kieran would later write. “But Bill Dickey, when it was handed to him, read it, looked up and said quietly, ‘That’s okay. Thanks.’”
Kieran not only knew Gehrig as a player but also as a neighbor in Riverdale, NY. He would visit Gehrig when he was housebound in the last stages of his illness.
According to Kieran, one day Gehrig, from his chair by an open window, pointed to the trophy from his teammates and said, “You know, some time when I get – well, sometimes I have that handed to me – and I read it – and I believe it – and I feel pretty good.”
The estate of Eleanor Gehrig, who passed away in 1984, donated the trophy with the Kieran poem to the Hall of Fame in 1985. Today, it can be viewed on the Museum’s second floor as part of Baseball’s Timeline, located at the bottom of Gehrig’s locker, along with the fruit bowl he received from the Giants, as part of an exhibit case dedicated to the Yankees of the late 1930s and early 1940s. The exhibit also includes a cap and jersey worn by Gehrig in 1939, as well as the glove and bronzed baseball shoe from Gehrig’s final game on April 30, 1939.