On July 4, 1939, Gehrig delivered what has been called “baseball’s Gettysburg Address” at Yankee Stadium. There is, for now, no known, intact film of Gehrig’s speech, but instead, just a swatch of the newsreel footage has survived, incorporating his opening and closing remarks: “For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth,” the last line, of course, having become one of the most famous, invoked, and inspiring, ever, anywhere. The New York Times account, the following day, called it “one of the most touching scenes ever witnessed on a ball field”, that made even hard-boiled reporters “swallow hard.”
The scene and the story would likely have been largely lost to history, altogether, were it not for the film, Pride of the Yankees, best known for Gary Cooper, as the dying Lou Gehrig, movingly describing himself as “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” even as his body was being ravaged by the disease that was soon named after him.
Here, now, in THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic by Richard Sandomir, New York Times sports columnist, is, for the first time, the full story behind the pioneering, seminal movie. Filled with larger than life characters and unexpected facts, Iron Hero shows us how Samuel Goldwyn had no desire to making a baseball film but he was persuaded to make a quick deal with Lou’s widow, Eleanor, not long after Gehrig had passed; Hollywood icon Cooper had zero knowledge of baseball and had to be taught to play; unknown parts of the screen treatment and screenplay that will be written about for the first time; and dishy letters to Eleanor from Christy Walsh, the pioneering business manager who represented the Gehrigs, from the Los Angeles set.
Nostalgic, breezy and fun, THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES captures a lost time in film and sports history.