Rhetorical Situation Analysis: Analyze the “Farewell to Baseball” Speech.

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Public Speaking
Strategies For Success, Seventh Edition

David Zarefsky

ISBN-13: 978-0-205-85726-5


In this Lesson, you will analyze the structure of
a short speech, Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball,”.


Please be sure to complete in a single Word

  • You will assess
    a short speech in terms of its organization and structure.

Part I: Analyze the “Farewell to Baseball”

On July 4, 1939, Yankee First Baseman Lou Gehrig
gave a short speech of farewell during retirement ceremonies at
Yankee Stadium in New York City. In terms of the rhetorical
situation, the speaker produced a fitting response that eliminated
the exigence in that situation. In any ceremony, of course, it is
customary for the guest of honor to make a few remarks and the
speaker eliminates that exigence just by saying something. Lou
Gehrig, however, perceived an additional exigence: sadness among
baseball fans. He reduced that exigence in giving his speech.

A rhetorical analysis of the speech begins with
the historical context: Lou Gehrig had set a record for the number of
consecutive games played in U.S. major-league baseball, but he
suddenly quit playing for health reasons. The occasion was “Lou
Gehrig Day,” a ceremony held at the stadium prior to a game to
commemorate the career of the retiring ballplayer. The audience
included spectators, other players, team and league officials,
workers, and radio listeners. The speaker was a professional athlete
who, not as comfortable with sportswriters as his teammate Babe Ruth
had been, had not planned to speak until his wife convinced him that
he should. The speech was short, extemporaneous, and reflected
gratitude. But this only recounts the facts about the speech without
accounting for the constraints and opportunities from each element
that the speaker was able to use to make the speech a fitting
response that reduced the exigence.

In this rhetorical situation, the occasion
provided the speaker with constraints and resources. He was obliged
to speak, given the conventions of such occasions, and was in uniform
at a public gathering in a place where people were used to seeing
him. As such, the occasion requires a somewhat formal ceremonial
speech that reflects on the shared values of the community in a
public, rather than private, gathering. In a familiar setting, the
occasion gave a somewhat shy man a comfortable space in which to
speak. The audience would expect a speech that was short, graceful,
and respectful of shared values that would address their feelings
appropriately but not overshadow the baseball game. The audience
provided respectful attention and a heightened emotional register for
the speaker, which gave his speech a purpose: he spoke to eliminate
the emotional exigence of sadness. The speaker, who had attended
Columbia University in the engineering program (on a baseball
scholarship), was an uncomfortable public speaker, but he had a
strong sense of responsibility. His intelligence and determination
sustained him in a time that was difficult personally,
professionally, and publicly. The speech had to be short, emotional
without being weepy, prepared but heartfelt, and appropriate to the
occasion in its ideas, structure, and language. The speech drew on
the resources and accommodated the constraints of each element in the
rhetorical situation to be a fitting response that achieved its

Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball” provides
us with an opportunity to consider the critical roles of speakers,
citizen-critics, and rhetorical critics. As speakers, we can learn
from the speech, as it is an example of several of the principles of
public speaking that we have developed in this course; we can
consider these whenever we speak on ceremonial occasions. As
citizen-critics, we can listen for the shared values of the community
reflected in the speech, consider their merits, and think about how
we would respond as the next speaker to attempt a fitting response,
either reinforcing and extending the values or modifying and revising
them depending on the new exigence. As rhetorical critics, we can
analyze the speech itself; for this lesson, we will focus on the
structure of the speech.

After you view
and read the speech (Links to an external site.)Links to an
external site.
, identify the ideas and values
that make up the propositional content of the speech. Then, consider
the structure. The speech does not follow all of the advice given by
the Zarefsky textbook, of course; ceremonial speeches often privilege
resonance of ideas over clarity of expression, and Gehrig’s speech
does not contain all of the functions of an introduction, conclusion,
or transition that you will be expected to use in your speech—just
most of them. In your rhetorical situation, the constraints and
opportunities for your speech assignment include using the strategies
and tactics for structure in the textbook. Using those strategies,
analyze the structure of Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball” in
an essay of 300–400 words or one to two double-spaced pages, in
Times New Roman with 12-point font and indented paragraphs. Include a
word count in your submission. All papers should be Word-processed,
with sources cited in the style you are most familiar with (such as
APA, MLA, or Chicago), if you use scholarly research to support your
claims. All papers must be free from typographical and spelling
mistakes. Errors of grammar, syntax, and composition affect the
assignment grade.


expressed in “Farewell to Baseball” 5 points

Arrangement of “Farewell to
Baseball” 5 points

Functions of Introduction and Conclusion in
“Farewell to Baseball” 5 points

How does “Farewell to Baseball” structure
manage constraints and resources? 5 points


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