So what do we make of this mystery? We have two, nearly identical versions of a speech, one version published in 1976, the other in 2005. The first version claims a sort of personal authority – Eleanor Gehrig said she helped Lou Gehrig write his speech, and perhaps she held on to the script they developed together.* For the second version, Jonathan Eig claims that he “pieced together as much of the speech as I could from newspaper accounts of the day.”
* Though we know Lou Gehrig did not bring notes with him when he addressed the crowd, and if he followed the script that would have been quite a feat for a man who was both shy about public speaking and was visibly overwhelmed with emotion almost to the point of being literally speechless.
I take Eig at his word about a contemporary source for such idiosyncratic lines as “Sure, I’m lucky” and a host of other unusual lines that are identical in both Eleanor Gehrig’s and Eig’s versions, phrases like:
- builder of baseball’s greatest empire
- little fellow
- that smart student of psychology
- you can have an education and build your body
- been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed
- When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles against her own daughter— that’s something.
It really is something. Such idiosyncratic phrasing. Yet identical in both versions.
What happened here?