CHARLOTTE, NC, July 16, 2017 – There’s an old joke that says baseball is the world’s oldest sport because it is mentioned in the first sentence of the book of Genesis: “In the beginning (big inning)…”
When most people speak of “big innings” they are usually referring to many runs being scored late in a ball game that usually results in a dramatic come-from-behind victory. As such, no definition could have been more appropriate on Saturday, July 15 in Charlotte, NC when a fundraising softball game featured just such a rally both on the field and off.
Shortly after being diagnosed with ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, my son, Andrew, came up with the idea to have a fund-raising softball game to support the Joe Martin ALS Foundation in Charlotte.
Martin was a prominent financial executive in Charlotte who was stricken with the disease and died in 2007. Together, Joe and his wife Joan, began a foundation along with Joe’s brother Jim, a former governor of the state of North Carolina.
My son’s idea was that since there were similarities between Gehrig and myself that it might fun to start an annual softball game to raise money for the Martin’s ALS Foundation.
Though considerably less distinguished than Gehrig’s in my own baseball career, the parallels seemed to be the seed of a great idea. Both of us played professional baseball. We were both left handed and played first base. And, we both loved baseball. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.
That’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Of course, there were disparities too. Gehrig played 17 seasons in the big leagues for the New York Yankees while I never made it to the majors. Plus, Gehrig hit 493 home runs, a mere 487 more than I hit in my professional career.
Perhaps most notable of all, Gehrig established a remarkable streak of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, a record which stood until Cal Ripken broke the mark in 1995 with 2,632.
It was ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) that ended Gehrig’s streak and his career. ALS is a rare progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain’s ability to communicate with the spinal cord and, from there to the muscles throughout the body.
That too is something I share with Lou Gehrig.
Andrew has always had a love of history and how it relates in our home town and our family. Though I never played for an American League team, except for one night with the Charlotte O’s, then the Baltimore’s Double-A franchise, I was born in New England and have been a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox. Matching the longtime rivalry between New York and Boston, Drew came up with the idea of having a charity softball game pitting “Lou’s Yanks” against “Bob’s Sox.”
Matching the longtime rivalry between New York and Boston, Drew came up with the idea of having a charity softball game pitting “Lou’s Yanks” against “Bob’s Sox.”
Andrew contacted the Joe Martin ALS Foundation which was thrilled with the idea, and suddenly the first annual ALS Softball Challenge was a reality.
Thanks to the input and support of Principal Officer Neil Cottrell and the tireless energy of Sarah Haydn, the date was set and the task of organizing the game began.
Hillary Clinton once wrote that “It takes a village,” which should have also included a dedicated and loving family, committed community support and the compassion of volunteers to make such an undertaking a success.
The organizers put their hearts and souls into the project, designing a website, logos, hats and shirts as well as setting up tents, supplying food services in an air conditioned tent, creating a silent auction and even arranging for John Carter, a local news personality at WBTV, Charlotte’s CBS affiliate, to announce the game.
Oddly enough July 15th just happened to be the anniversary of the day WBTV signed on the air as the 13th television station in the United States and, is today, the oldest station in the country between Richmond and Atlanta. It was also a place where I was employed for 14 years as a sportscaster and producer.
The Covenant Presbyterian Church choir sent several volunteer members to open the festivities with the National Anthem. They later led the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ball” and singing “Happy Birthday” to Haley Kuester who came with family from Belgium to participate in the game.
Haley’s dad, Sean, an active Lt. Col. in the US Army who has experienced three tours of duty in the Middle East, will be attending the War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania later this year. Prestigious attendees of the War College include Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Omar Bradley and Norman Schwartzkoff to name a few.
Even the Red Sox themselves contributed with a personal letter from the President of Baseball Operations, David Dombrowki.
Originally scheduled for five innings, the game moved along at a rapid pace so it was decided to extend the festivities to seven.
To paraphrase the famous poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, “The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville ten that day, the score stood 15 to 5 with but one inning left to play.”
Following a scoreless first inning, Lou’s Yanks racked up a whopping 15 runs in the next four innings to lead Bob’s Sox by 15 to 5 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
And that’s when the “Genesis” of Drew Taylor’s inspiration became the “big inning” as the home team tallied 16 runs in the sixth to come from behind to win, 21-16.
Though unofficial, every player was inducted into the “ALS Hall of Bruises” for all the aches, pains and strawberries that were inflicted in the name of charity. Pain makes no distinctions between age and gender.
Needless to say, “Mudville” didn’t need Casey and, in the process, the final tally for ALS came in at more than $13,000.
Indeed it does “take a village”…one filled with love, caring, and compassion.
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 founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up