There’s one contemporary account of Lou Gehrig’s full 1939 farewell speech. And we can’t trust it. III

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?

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