Today is the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s speech at Yankee stadium in 1939. I spoke with my father today, and he told me of being 14 in NJ and listening to the speech on the radio. Gehrig was 35 and just been found to have ALS, a disease with a 100% fatality rate. Considered by many to be the embodiment of sportsmanship, he stood at the microphone and told the nation “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth“.
The 4th of July, 1939 at Yankee Stadium. He was dead less than 2 years later.
I was once a baseball fan, but I never watched another Major League game after the Roberto Alomar incident in 1996*. I still love the game, but I don’t care for what it has become. This does not tarnish what it was, and I uphold that Lou Gehrig’s speech remains the most moving moment in the history of American sports.
Here is the connection to flying: If I went to the news stand at the airport and looked at Flying, the AOPA magazine, or Plane and Pilot, or even 1/2 of the things in Sport Aviation, I don’t care for the things they cover, planes they praise or even experiences they promote. The flying that I love is from a era as far removed from Cirrus and TBM as Gehrig was from the steroid scandals. I view baseball of today and the General aviation of Cessna 162 Skycatchers as poisoned, degenerate offspring of things that were once beautiful.
A very important difference: No one will ever be able to go to a Major league stadium and watch a game again without considering how money drugs and TV have shaped and mutilated it so it can be made more profitable at any cost. You can never go back, it will never be pure again.
However, flying is very different. As a homebuilder, you can pick any era in aviation you love, build a plane from that period, and go visit it just as it was, any time you like. A plane is a time machine that can transport you to the mindset of any time. If you took your Pietenpol Aircamper flying today, once you were away from the ground a bit, it would be very hard to distinguish the 4th of July today, from the 4th of July the day Gehrig said he was the luckiest man on earth.
Powered flight is 111 years old. It has had countless perfect days, and they are all still there, you can go visit most of them. Tonight you can open one of the dozens of great aviation books, and read the words of the author as he vividly describes the sky on a day long past, but not forgotten. If you are lucky the authors images will fill your sleep. Tomorrow at sunrise, you can awaken and go to your shop and make the first part of your own time machine that will transport you to that long past hour aloft. -ww
*I accept that Alomar was later genuinely remorseful for what he did. My problem is with the league that only suspended him for 5 games, a decision of money over ethics and Sportsmanship.
3 Replies to “Thought for the Day “The luckiest man on the face of the earth””
Great notes! My time machine was working well today as I was up boring holes in the sky over the practice area. As I was doing S-turns over a road I was taken back to a day more than a decade ago when I did them in an ultralight with my beloved instructor in the back seat near that same spot. For just a moment I was transported to another time and place.
When I came to myself I had mixed emotions as I miss him and those days … but I’m quite thankful that these days my time machine is a 120 HP Cleanex. 8~)
how is it that you know about that corvair engine gathering dust in the corner of my workshop waiting for that day………