NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In 1942, Gary Cooper took on the role of Yankee great Lou Gehrig in the film “The Pride of the Yankees.”
He uttered the Iron Horse’s iconic words from his speech at a home plate ceremony at Yankee Stadium commemorating Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day just three years prior;
“Today, I consider myself… the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” Cooper said, echoing the former big-hitting first baseman famed for his 2,130 consecutive-games-played streak — a record at the time later broken in 1995 by Orioles great Cal Ripken, Jr.
“Heartfelt and poignant, this man with less than two years to live shared his feelings to an enraptured audience that left tears rolling down the cheeks of all but a few,” according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s website.
This year marks the movie’s 75th Anniversary, and author Richard Sandomir reveals both fact and fiction behind the scenes in his new book.
According to “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic,” script writers took some liberties with the slugger’s farewell to fans.
“The ‘luckiest man’ line is the second line in the speech, and it becomes the final line for dramatic emphasis,” Sandomir tells 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.
In fact, according to the book, Cooper didn’t even know how to play baseball. He was coached how to bat and throw, and professional baseball players were used as stand-ins.