July 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm

With video: Tigers' Victor Martinez, 29 other major-league stars recite Lou Gehrig's speech

Only July 4, 1939, legendary Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig delivered his famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. (MLB.com)

Seventy-five years ago today, Lou Gehrig, dying from the awful disease that now is named after the legendary Yankee, delivered his famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium in New York.

It was July 4, 1939, and Gehrig stood, in uniform, on the infield, surrounded by teary-eyed teammates, other dignitaries and a full house of fans.

And he said the line that today might still be the most famous in baseball history.

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

To commemorate the occasion, Major League Baseball got all 30 first basemen — plus Yankees captain Derek Jeter — to recite the full speech, one piece at a time.

Here’s the video.

Interestingly, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera did not participate. Victor Martinez, the Tigers’ backup first baseman, took his place and spoke the line: “I consider myself ...”

Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games — a streak that ended in Detroit in early May 1939, after he learned of his grim diagnosis. He actually wrote a letter to his wife, Eleanor, on stationery from the Book Cadillac Hotel, where the Yankees were staying.

He passed away June 2, 1941, at the age of 37, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a brutal disease that still has no cure. Between 5,000 and 6,000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS every year, and most live fewer than five years after diagnosis.

For more information about the disease, and to donate to the cause to find a cure, click here.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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