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Lou Gehrig’s Most Memorable Quotes About Life and Baseball

Lou Gehrig playing first

Lou Gehrig’s Most Memorable Quotes About Life and Baseball

Almost a century after his career, many still consider Lou Gehrig one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Nicknamed “the iron horse,” Gehrig played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees. There, he held an incredible .340 batting average, became a seven-time consecutive All-Star, won the Triple Crown, and set multiple Major League Baseball records. Even today, Gehrig holds the record for the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted in per 100 plate appearances and 100 games. A stunning career and a remarkable bit of misfortune provide many iconic quotes by Gehrig.

Later in his career, Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative illness that prevented him from ever playing baseball again. Due to his outsized stature and remarkable positivity surrounding the disease, ALS became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Despite this, Gehrig didn’t shy away from the spotlight or disappear into the history books. Instead, he became something of a spokesman for the illness. His attitude also served as an inspiration, motivating others who face serious life challenges to tackle them head-on with equal parts understanding, determination, and appreciation for the beauty inherent in every struggle.

A compassionate man from humble beginnings, Gehrig never lost his sense of grace and gratitude even as life tested his resolve. In this article, we will explore a collection of the most iconic quotes by the iconic Lou Gehrig. (For the musings of another Yankees legend, discover unforgettable quotes from Joe Dimaggio.)

To compile a list of iconic quotes by the iconic Lou Gehrig, 24/7 Tempo consulted a range of quote databases, baseball publications, and news websites including BooKey, The National Baseball Hall of Fame, and ESPN.com. Next, we selected a range of quotes that touch on everything from family and gratitude to the game of baseball. After that, we confirmed aspects of his quotes and life story using sites like ESPN.com and Britannica.com. 

Family

Lou Gehrig Holding Three Baseball Bats
Source: Getty Images / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Though Gehrig eventually found glory, he came from humble origins. Born in New York City as the son of German immigrants, Gehrig was the only one of four children to survive past childhood. His father Heinrich suffered from bad health and often had trouble finding consistent work. His mother, Christina, picked up the slack, cooked, cleaned houses, and did laundry to help the family make ends meet. She emphasized education for Lou, who attended Columbia University on a football scholarship. As such, there are some iconic quotes by Gehrig about the importance of family. 

“When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.”

Eleanor Gehrig 1935
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: July 4, 1939
  • From: Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man Speech” on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day

“When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing.”

Gehrig Columbia University
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: July 4, 1939
  • From: Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man Speech” on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day

“[I] have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something.”

1923 Lou Gehrig
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: July 4, 1939
  • From: Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man Speech” on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day

Baseball

Lou Gehrig Columbia football
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

Lou Gehrig’s career in baseball started as something of a lark. While playing college football at Columbia University, New York Giants manager John McGraw suggested he play college baseball under a fake name. Administrators discovered his ruse while he played for Hartford in the Eastern League, and banned him from intercollegiate sports his freshman year.

After being allowed back, he played for the Columbia Nine in 1923. Baseball scout Paul Krichell saw him play and was so impressed with his hitting skills, that he signed Gehrig with the New York Yankees the same year. That September, the Yankees called up Gehrig and he hit .423. This began an illustrious baseball career that provided plenty of iconic quotes by Lou Gehrig. 

“There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all.”

Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers
Source: Getty Images / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig’s response to segregation in baseball

“I am a slave to baseball and only because I really love the game, hate to think of taking even one day away when we are playing.”

New York Yankees
Source: MPI / Archive Photos via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig musing on his dedication to baseball

“The ballplayer who loses his head, who can’t keep his cool, is worse than no ballplayer at all.”

Gehrig Swings
Source: Hulton Archive / Archive Photos via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig’s approach to steadfastness while playing

“What are you going to do? Admit to yourself that the pitchers have you on the point of surrender? You can’t do that. You must make yourself think that the pitchers are just as good as they always have been or just as bad.”

Lou Gehrig
Source: Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

  • Year: July 4, 1939
  • From: Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man Speech” on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day

(For other observations on America’s pastime, discover 22 of the most famous baseball quotes.)

Gratitude

Lou Gehrig, American Baseball Player
Source: Getty Images / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Gehrig’s career began during an era of outsized personality in professional baseball. While players like Babe Ruth dominated the press, it left little room for burgeoning athletes to make their mark. Instead of becoming resentful of this shadow, Gehrig embraced the lack of spotlight as fodder for improvement. These iconic quotes by Lou Gehrig reflect his humble but principled attitude toward challenges and the two sides of every coin. 

“Don’t take life for granted. You never know what tomorrow holds.”

Babe And Lou
Source: Hulton Archive / Archive Photos via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Widely attributed

“Appreciate the small victories, for they are the ones that matter the most.”

Babe Ruth Injured
Source: FPG / Archive Photos via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig reflects on the little things

“There is beauty in every struggle; it’s up to us to find it.”

Lou And Hank
Source: 2010 Getty Images / Archive Photos via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig remarks on the silver lining to adversity.

“Challenges are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

Lou Gehrig
Source: R. Gates / Archive Photos via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Widely attributed

“I’m grateful for every day I have. I have a disease, but I have a life, too.”

'Rawhide' Publicity Still
Source: Getty Images / Moviepix via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig (pictured, center, in still from “Rawhide”) reflects on his ALS disease diagnosis

“I had to get sick to realize I’d been healthy.”

1931 Lou Gehrig passport photo
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig illustrates the perspective a serious disease gave him.

Resolve and Determination

Lou Gehrig playing first
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

While Gehrig became one of the greatest baseball players in history, his legacy remains firmly rooted in his struggles. In 1938, his batting average fell below .300 for the first time in years. This suggested something was wrong. At first, doctors diagnosed him with a gallbladder issue, but his problems persisted.

Later, specialists at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a very rare degenerative disease. Due to his incredible resolve in the face of such adversity, the illness later became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Back in the spotlight, plenty of iconic quotes by Gehrig illustrated his determination to remain positive despite these challenges.

“Strength comes not from physical capacity but from an indomitable will.”

Gehrig 1937 All-Stars
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Gehrig channels Friedrich Nietzsche

“You have to get knocked down to realize how people really feel about you. I’ve realized that more than ever lately. The other day, I was on my way to the car. It was hailing, the streets were slippery and I was having a tough time of it. I came to a corner and started to slip. But before I could fall, four people jumped out of nowhere to help me. When I thanked them, they all said they knew about my illness and had been keeping an eye on me.”

Lou Gehrig 1925
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: October 1948
  • From: Gehrig’s statement to reporter Jack Sher, published in “Sport”

“Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

Lou Gehrig stockbroker 1929
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Widely attributed, often to different people

“Never give up on your dreams, even when life throws you curveballs.”

Lou Gehrig Monument Park
Source: Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Year: Unknown
  • From: Likely a statement about Gehrig’s terminal illness

“I may have lost my physical strength, but my spirit remains unbreakable.”

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
Source: Getty Images / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown 
  • From: Likely a statement about Gehrig’s terminal illness

“Success is not measured by what you accomplish but by the obstacles you overcome.”

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees
Source: 2010 Getty Images / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

  • Year: Unknown 
  • From: Widely attributed

(For musings from another Yankees legend, explore iconic quotes about life and baseball from Mickey Mantle.)

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