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Lou Gehrig famously said he was 'the luckiest man on the face of the Earth,' but I think we're all pretty lucky.

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Fireworks light up the sky as part of a Fourth of July celebration following a Hillsboro Hops game. Happy Fourth of July! You know, the day built around the birth of our country thanks to the idea of freedom and a bunch of people willing to fight for it.

But while spawning from what John Adams called "the most memorable epoch in the history of America," and one that he believed would be celebrated as the "great anniversary festival," it has become one more about hot dogs, parades, carnivals, of course fireworks, and, you guessed it — sports.

Baseball is associated with the national holiday, which — believe it or not — has only been recognized as a national holiday since 1941.

Timing is everything, and baseball obviously has it due to the holiday coinciding with the heart of the Major League Baseball season.

Since 1903, MLB has been playing games on and around the national holiday, and the game of baseball itself decades before that. In that time, some of the game's greatest moments have occurred on Independence Day.

New York Yankee Dave Righetti threw his first no-hitter and the Yankees' first in nearly three decades when he no-hit the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

Both Nolan Ryan and Phil Neikro reached the 3,000-strikeout milestone on the Fourth of July, with Ryan doing so in 1980 and Neikro in 1984.

In 1985, the Mets and the Braves played 19 innings in a game that didn't end until 4 a.m. — on the fifth of July. Undeterred, however, Atlanta fans, or those that were still in attendance, were treated to the fireworks promised them as part of the national holiday celebration.

Ty Cobb once stole second, third and home in one inning on July 4, 1912.

And former player and broadcaster Tim McCarver infamously had a grand slam home run stricken from the record after passing teammate Gary Maddox on his trip around the basepaths, allowing the All-Star catcher only credit for a three-run single.

But while all of the aforementioned are memorable in their own right, the holiday and iconic hardball moments really begin and end with Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech in 1939.

At just 36 years of age and only two weeks removed from his diagnosis with what would subsequently become known as Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), "The Iron Horse" announced his retirement from the Yankees and the game of baseball. Saying in his speech to a sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

He died less than two years later.

There's no way to know what was going through Gehrig's head in that moment, or the weeks, months or years preceding it. But whatever it was or had been, one can conclude that there was a sense of appreciation that Gehrig had for life in the wake of his disease.

Maybe he always had it. Or maybe he found it in the face of impending doom.

What's my point? I want to appreciate more, and I'd like you to as well.

Lou Gehrig had everything, and in less than two years, it was all gone as the result of a disease no one saw coming.

His legacy is one of a Hall of Fame baseball player, but also as a stalwart of a man outside the lines. But while he was special on the field, he really wasn't off of it.

There are a lot of great people in this world, and I think that's important to remember — now more than ever.

Not in my lifetime have I seen so many so willing to disparage what we have. Yes, this is an imperfect world and we live in an imperfect country. But rather than look to your phone, television or listening device for a view of what's a very small world, I suggest you look to the people around you for a perspective of the bigger one.

On this Fourth of July, appreciate the country that allows you what you have rather than what you wish it did.

Be grateful for your family; your friends; the roof over your head and the money in your pocket.

Understand what it means to be healthy.

Be willing to help, but accept help as well, for doing so allows an understanding of the greater good that surrounds you.

These are not difficult things to do, you just have to be willing to accept imperfections while in the process of perfecting them.

So, enjoy yourself on the Fourth. Eat a hot dog. Go to a ball game. Catch a movie, or picnic with a cool beverage amongst the people who mean something to you. For while there's plenty to complain about, there's plenty more to appreciate.

You may not be the luckiest person in the world, but you're still pretty lucky — you just have to open your eyes to see it.


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