Sports and the Fourth of July seem to create a lot of history together. This stands to reason seeing as how professional athletes work on a day that most of us have off.
On July 4th, 1984 two sports greats hit major milestones in their careers. Knuckleballer Phil Niekro recorded his 3000th strikeout while a member of the New York Yankees. Many of us remember all those years that Phil played for the Atlanta Braves when the Braves had a tendency to lose as many games as they won.
Also on July 4th, 1984 a NASCAR legend would come up with what would be the final victory of his illustrious career. The man known as the King of NASCAR would notch his 200th win at the Daytona Speedway when he took the checkered flag in the Firecracker 400. Richard Petty has definitely set the bar high when it comes to NASCAR career victories. And let's not forget his seven NASCAR championships.
Baseball, of course, dominates milestones on the Fourth of July being that it is the game of summer. July 4th, 1980 would see future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan record his 3000th strikeout. On July 4th, 1983 Yankee left-hander Dave Righetti pitched a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox. It was the first time since 1917 that a Yankee left-hander had pitched a no-hitter.
On July 4th, 2006, St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols would hit the 300th home run of his career.
These are just a few of the milestones that happened in sports on July 4th. But perhaps one of the most famous sports events that has happened on the Fourth of July was in 1939 at Yankee Stadium. It was on that day in 1939 that baseball's reigning Iron Man, or as many people called him, the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig would give his famous farewell speech to the Yankee fans. At age 35, Gehrig had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, or as it has come to be known, Lou Gehrig Disease. This illness did what no team had found a way to do, and that was get Lou out of the Yankee line-up after 2,131 consecutive games. Twenty-three months later on June, 2 1941, 17 days before his 37th birthday, this disease had claimed Lou Gehrig’s life. But on July 4th, 1939 Lou Gehrig made a statement to the fans; choking back tears he said, “Today I am the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”
And you know, when it comes to the day that we celebrate the birth of OUR country, even with its shortcomings, the BEST country on this earth, maybe what Lou Gehrig said holds true for all of us and we should feel that we are “the luckiest people on the face of this earth.”
Hope you have a safe and fun-filled Fourth. Enjoy the rest of the Summer and enjoy the time with your family.