You’ve heard Lou Gehrig’s iconic “Luckiest Man Alive” speech countless times. Close your eyes and you can see him in black-and-white, bowing his head in front of the steel microphones and wiping away tears as he bid farewell to baseball. You can feel the 62,000 fans in Yankee Stadium collectively chanting “We Want Lou” as the Iron Horse stood in front of the crowd one last time — not long before a little-known disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) would take his life.
But what you may not know about that speech is that it was made on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. It’s time to bring that back. For every person with ALS fighting like hell for a cure just like Lou did.
It’s time to have an official, league-wide Lou Gehrig’s Day that honors his legacy: Not just in one stadium, but in all of baseball.
Lou Gehrig and Major League Baseball are as intertwined as the stitches on a baseball. The greatest first baseman ever, Gehrig embodied the very best of America’s pastime, playing in a record-breaking 2,130 consecutive games across 15 seasons and delivering a moving speech that made him an American hero. He is a beacon of indelible greatness, enduring strength and uncommon grace — traits that have inspired generations on and off the playing field.
But sadly, generations have come and gone without a cure, or even an effective treatment, for the 100 percent fatal disease that took Gehrig’s life. The lifetime risk for ALS has been described as 1-in-300, which means that about 100 fans attending a typical MLB game will one day hear the words, “You have ALS.”
We believe that Lou Gehrig’s Disease and MLB have a unique, inextricable relationship that no other pro sport can claim, as Gehrig is the only athlete to have a disease named after him. But even with this famous connection, there’s still much work to be done around ALS awareness. In fact, in 2018, a poll completed by Ipsos found that more than 60 percent of Americans know nothing about ALS. This is unacceptable. And Major League Baseball’s platform can change that.
In that spirit, we would like to propose MLB having a league-wide Lou Gehrig Day on June 2. Why June 2? It’s the day that Gehrig died. But it also represents a beginning: June 2 happens to be the day, in 1925, that Gehrig officially took over for Wally Pipp, cementing the launch of Gehrig’s historic consecutive-game streak. We propose that on that day, all players, managers, coaches, umpires and other on-field personnel wear a “4ALS” patch jerseys.
I AM ALS research has found that 19 MLB teams have “ALS Awareness” days scattered on the calendar, but we believe that having a unified, league-wide day dedicated to raising awareness for this horrific disease would be most effective. Hitting on that collaborative theme, the goal is for teams to still maintain partnerships with any ALS-related charity/foundation that they are already affiliated with, or select a charity/foundation of their choosing.
More than 80 years after his famous speech, it’s time to honor Gehrig and his fight at a league-wide level. When you walk into the Baseball Hall of Fame, you are greeted with three statues: Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson, and Lou Gehrig. Gehrig is the only one without a league-wide day. Let’s change that — together. For Lou, and for the thousands of people currently battling this cruel disease.