Morning Briefing: Great moments in Fourth of July sports history

Lou Gehrig, left, and Babe Ruth in 1939.
(Associated Press)

Today is the Fourth of July holiday (and isn’t it an amazing coincidence that the Fourth of July holiday ended up happening on July 4. What are the odds?), also known as Independence Day. That means most of you are at the beach, or having a backyard cookout, or at the park or some stadium waiting for some massive fireworks show (spoiler alert: All fireworks shows look the same). That also means no one is reading this, because you’re all out having fun!

But did you know that some great sports moments happened on this date? Let’s take a look:

1776: The British have a 13-0 lead in colonies before the U.S. comes back and sends them home empty-handed.

1890: Lena Rice becomes the only Irish woman to win the Wimbledon women’s title, beating May Jacks 6-4, 6-1.


1905: Rube Waddell and Cy Young each pitch 20-inning complete games as Waddell’s A’s defeat Young’s Boston Americans, 4-2. Twenty innings! Trivia alert: Cy Young never won the Cy Young Award.

1939: Lou Gehrig, who had retired after being diagnosed with the disease that would be named for him, has his No. 4 retired by the New York Yankees and gives his iconic “luckiest man” speech.

The full text of the speech: “Fans, for the past two weeks you’ve been reading about a bad break [I got]. Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.


“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift, that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter, that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body, it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

1960: Mickey Mantle of the Yankees homers to become just the 18th player in history with 300 home runs.

1980: Nolan Ryan strikes out Cesar Geronimo to become the fourth pitcher to strike out 3,000 batters.

1981: John McEnroe ends at five Bjorn Borg’s streak of consecutive Wimbledon titles with a 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory.

1983: Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti no-hits the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-3, for the first of his seven Wimbledon men’s singles titles.

Today is also the birthday of the late Raiders owner Al Davis and the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. It seems appropriate those two share a birthday. So, have a safe and sane Independence Day, but keep one eye on the scoreboard. You never know what might happen.


Get our daily Sports Report newsletter