Lou Gehrig, "The Iron Horse" first baseman for the New York Yankees, had played for 2,130 consecutive games and endured any number of sprains, bumps, bruises and illness. It was a shock when it finally ended, with him telling his coach, in his understated way, he wasn't "feeling well."
Actually, he had Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known now as Lou Gehrig's Disease, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Death often occurs within 5 years of diagnosis and Gerhig died June 2, 1941 so he likely had played through it for some time.
The Yankees designated July 4, 1939 as "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" and he made his famous "...today, I consider myself, the luckiest man on the face of the earth" farewell speech, later featured in the film "Pride of the Yankees" (which included actual player from his teammates alongside Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig).
A Liberty ship was named after Gehrig and it landed at Normandy on his birthday in 1944 but Gehrig is most remembered now for bringing ALS to prominence. Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken surpassed Gehrig's consecutive games played streak and now holds the record with 2,632.
Today In Medical History - Lou Gehrig's Consecutive Games Streak Ends May 2, 1939