Henry Louis "Lou" Gehrig (June 19, 1903 - June 2, 1941) was the starting first baseman of the New York Yankees from 1925 to 1939, during which period he started 2130 consecutive games, a record for durability which stood for decades. Over his career he had a .340 batting average and 493 home runs, which were good for second place on the all-time home run list behind only his teammate Babe Ruth at the time of his retirement. 23 of his home runs were grand slams, a record which stands today. Gehrig led the American League in hitting in 1934, led in home runs three times, was a seven-time All-Star (in fact he was named to every AL All-Star Team from the first inception of the Midsummer Classic in 1933 through his retirement in 1939), was MVP in 1927 and 1936, won seven World Series with the Yankees, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame immediately upon his retirement, in 1939.
Gehrig's career ended abruptly and prematurely in 1939 when he contracted the incurable neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease caused Gehrig to die at the young age of 37 despite his always having been an exemplar of excellent physical fitness and, unlike some of his contemporary players, a practitioner of a scrupulously healthy lifestyle. The Yankees held Lou Gehrig Day on July 4, 1939, and he delivered a short but legendary address expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to play for the Yankees, describing himself as "the luckiest man on the face of the earth" and ending by saying "I may have gotten a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for." On that day he became the first athlete in the history of U.S. professional sports to have his uniform number (4) retired.