Today is the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech. And in his honor, all of baseball is celebrating him and his enduring legacy, as well as supporting ALS research for a cure to the terrible disease that took Gehrig from this world so early. As part of that honor, the Yankees recited his speech in this video clip. (The intro also explains the brief history of Lou Gehrig Day on July 4, 1939.)
And then there was a game in Minnesota today. To break from my normal pattern, because this game was anything but normal, I’m going to start with the Yankee offense. In the first 2 innings, the Yankees racked up enough runs to ensure them today’s victory and push the Twins’ starter out of the game after a whopping 52 pitches over just those 2 innings. In the 1st, Brett Gardner led off with a triple (is this becoming a thing now because I’m okay with it) and scored on Brian Roberts’ double; Roberts (who really had a fantastic offensive day overall) then scored on Mark Teixeira’s double; and Teixeira would score on Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly. Then in the 2nd, Francisco Cervelli led off with a double and scored on Brendan Ryan’s sacrifice fly; Gardner’s walk and Roberts’ ground-rule double put them in scoring position to score on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. Six runs in just 2 innings.
I can’t hold the Twins’ starter to much because the Yankees’ starter Chase Whitley had almost as much trouble through his 3 innings. He threw 74 pitches, allowed 8 hits, 4 runs, and a walk, striking out 4 batters. Not exactly a quality start, but thanks to an offense that seemed to pounce on the weakness of the Twins and a defense that certainly backed their pitcher to keep his head above water. Those runs were lead-off homers in both the 1st and 2nd innings and an RBI triple and an RBI single to put the Twins at 6-4 behind the Yankees by the end of the 3rd inning.
Now, fortunately, the Yankees relied on their bullpen to keep that score pretty much there, or at least their lead intact, turning first to David Huff for the 3 middle innings. Huff threw just 35 pitches over his outing, allowing absolutely no hits or runs and striking out 3 batters. He also ended up with the win. Warren came on in the 7th for 2 outs and Betances finished out the 7th, coming back for a full 8th inning. Betances allowed a lead-off single in the 8th, who would advance progressively and score on a ground out, making the score 6-5 Yankees.
David Robertson earned his 20th save of the season with a snazzy 16 pitch 9th inning, striking out 3 batters and handing the Yankees another win. In the 9th, there was also momentary greatness for recent call-up Zelous Wheeler, who entered the game in the 8th. Wheeler went after an errant fly foul ball so far he ended up diving into the Yankees’ dugout. Unfortunately, upon review, it was overturned and called a foul ball because he didn’t “catch it on the field of play” as his foot was already on the dugout steps and thus off the field. (Confession: I didn’t know this was a rule until today’s game. I guess we learn something new every day.)
A win is good, but for “America’s team” to win on America’s Independence Day, it seems all the sweeter. My family listened to the game over burgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill; distant crackles of fireworks in the distance broke into the game periodically; everyone decked out in some form of red, white, and blue; and the John Adams mini-series paused somewhere in the middle of one of the episodes, waiting for us to re-gather in the living room. I have to say that today felt very tinged with Americana, and not just because my mom placed little American flags everywhere in her house. No, because everything we did today felt like a celebration of America — family, baseball, fireworks, and history.
Stay safe today, and remember that our independence was never a guarantee. But we celebrate with fireworks and baseball and family and grilled deliciousness and everything because someone fought to make it happen, sacrificed for our freedom, paved the way for us to become the people we dream we can be, maybe even become the “luckiest man on the face of the earth”.
“So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.” — Lou Gehrig, 1939.