CHARLOTTE, NC: Bob’s Sox vs Lou’s Yanks, Chapter Two. The second annual Joe Martin ALS Softball Rivalry Challenge took place under cool cloudy skies in Charlotte, NC on Saturday. The goal; to raise more than $15,000 in donations following 2017’s inaugural game in support of providing assistance to ALS patients. The event raised $20,000 for ALS research via on behalf of the Joe Martin ALS Foundation.
When former vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle was teased for his stance on family values, ALS was on the back burner in the minds of most people. In the end, Quayle, for all of his seemingly youthful naiveté, was right on target, at least from my personal ALS perspective.
The Joe Martin ALS Foundation
In Charlotte, the Joe Martin ALS Foundation was the brainchild of former banking executive and community leader, Joe Martin, who was diagnosed with the affliction in 1994. Martin and his wife, Joan, along with Joe’s brother Jim, governor of North Carolina from 1985 to 1993, established the foundation as a family project to aid ALS patients.
Thus, the “we are family” aspect of ALS was the seed of a growing “family tree” that continues to spread goodwill throughout the region.
Shortly after my own ALS diagnosis, my son, Andrew, decided that we, too, should give something back to the community. Drew is a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. This is due, in part, to his grandfather’s frustration of being born the year after the Sox won their last World Series in 1918. Unfortunately passing away the year before they won it again in 2004. With that bookend life in mind, Andrew came up with the idea of organizing a fundraiser to support ALS while saluting baseball’s greatest rivalry; the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.
Lou’s Yanks vs. Bob’s Sox is born
At first, Drew’s idea was to have a baseball game, but he later decided it would be more fun to allow players of all ages and genders to play so it was changed to a softball challenge.
The goal of the first game, played in July 2017, was to raise $5,000. The day dawned in blistering heat but the teams and fans were equal to the task.
In true baseball tradition, Andrew wore a wool uniform emblazoned with the number “9” to honor Sox slugger Ted Williams, the last player to hit .400 in a regular season.
Andrew has always been a free spirit, to say the least, but as a member of a large family consisting of seven close cousins who have added a flock of grandchildren to the clan, it quickly became a family affair.
In fact, the competition between family members to see who could raise the most money became intense right up to the last pitch, when Drew’s uncle Alan topped him by about $100 for the honor.
Taking the game the full monty
The first game was planned for five innings so it would be short and sweet. But it was softball, and despite varying levels of talent, it moved along quickly, so the decision was made mid-game to go a full seven stanzas instead.
In the end, it was a bad move for Lou’s Yanks who led 16-4 going into the bottom of the 6th. That’s when the Sox roared back with a record-setting inning that accounted for 18 runs. Final score, Bob’s Sox 22, Lou’s Yanks 18 and the precedent was set with an amazing final tally that raised more than $15,000 for ALS.
Red Sox vs. Yankees
The Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry dates to the unforgettable trade in the 20th century when Boston traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. In the interim, New York won the World Series 27 times while the Sox took home none.
In 1937, Yankees first baseman, Lou Gehrig, made the dramatic announcement that he was retiring from the game after being diagnosed with ALS. So powerful was his message that today ALS is still referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Another Yankee star, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, a popular pitcher from eastern North Carolina, was also stricken with ALS.
The Curse of the Bambino
In 2004, the Red Sox won the greatest comeback in sports history coming from three games down to the Yankees to win the American League pennant before sweeping St. Louis in four straight games in the World Series. The drought was over. It was the Sox first championship in 86 years and ended what had become known as “The Curse of the Bambino.”
The following day, Andrew went to his grandfather’s grave and placed a pair of red socks on the marker.
A game becomes a family affair
For the past two years, like the Martin’s who created the local ALS foundation, the softball rivalry challenge has been a labor of love by my family. Their contributions have come in multiple ways from raising funds to committing their time and energy to providing items for auction, creating logos, T-shirts and caps for both teams, seeking sponsors and whatever it takes to make the event itself.
All it really took for me was to be diagnosed with ALS. Love, support and family did the rest.
With the threat of rain looming on Saturday, the decision was to play the game as planned.
A full day of softball and fun
The Covenant Presbyterian Church Choir sang the National Anthem for the second year in a row.
William Taylor, celebrating his 5th birthday hit the first pitch, rather than throwing it, and ran around the bases to raucous support.
“L’il Papi”, as he is now known, set the tone for the game.
Josh Daniel provided live music between innings including “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” a la Harry Carey in the bottom of the 4th.
For the second straight year, Bob’s Sox rallied in the sixth inning with 6 runs to break a 4-4 tie and win 10-4.
Following the game, hot dogs and brats were served along with Italian ice.
Later a raffle and auction included a Cleary bicycle, Carolina Panthers tickets, an autographed picture from Steve Gleason (the former New Orleans Saints player who also suffers from ALS) and a cap signed by pro golfer Web Simpson.
My own baseball cards, a gift from Joe Taylor, a member of our church and an avid sports fan, were provided to anyone wishing to make a donation.
A good day – Raising more than $20,000 for ALS research
As a final tribute, my fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Emma Claire, took top fundraising honors with a total of $4,700, bringing the 2018 total close to $25,000. A tribute to the caring and compassion of a community of caregivers. If you would like to contribute to this fundraising event, donate to Bob’s Go Fund Me account and mark the donation for the Joe Martin ALS Foundation.
Yes, indeed, love him or hate him, Dan Quayle got it right. The ALS Softball Rivalry Challenge did indeed keep it “All in the Family.” A family that got even bigger on a cool Saturday morning in May.
Lede image: Friendly rivalry Image by Drew Taylor
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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Read more of Bob’s journeys with ALS and his travels around the world, and What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up