CHARLOTTE, NC, July 30, 2017 – On Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, NY, nothing could be more appropriate than the announcement by Major League Baseball (MLB) last Thursday that they will be raising funds for home healthcare to battle ALS from August 1 through August 5.
The fund raiser is being conducted in honor of New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig who was stricken with the rare disease during the prime of his baseball career.
Nearly 100 years ago, in 1927, Gehrig hit 47 home runs with 173 RBI (runs batted in) for the Yankees team that many still regard as the best in baseball history.
Known as the “Iron Horse” for his durability, Gehrig went on to establish a streak of playing in 2,130 straight games. The record was believed to be unbreakable until Cal Ripken Jr surpassed that mark in 1995. Ripken eventually played in 2,632 consecutive games.
Given the way modern baseball is played, Ripken’s achievement is a record that will likely stand forever.
MLB established the campaign with an initial contribution of $50,000 to assist the ALS Association’s new ALS Home Health Initiative. The five day campaign, called “MLB fights ALS”, will be a league-wide program with the participation of every team.
Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement saying “Because of Lou Gehrig, baseball has long had a connection to the fight against ALS. In his memory, we are proud to assist ALS patients and families in carrying the enormous financial burden of living with the disease that bears his name. We encourage our fans to join us in helping ALS patients receive the best care possible.”
In 2012, when Pete Frates, an outstanding major league prospect who played at Boston College, was diagnosed with ALS, it became the impetus for the popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in which people would select someone to douse another person with ice water. The early goal in that project was to raise $1 million to honor Frates, fellow members of the baseball fraternity and fans who are battling the disease.
Frates idea also planted the seed for the ALS Home Health Initiative and the MLB Fights ALS campaign (#MLBFightsALS).
Even with the awareness Lou Gehrig brought to the ailment, ALS has been a back-burner disease for too long. For whatever reason, perhaps because of its rarity or because the number of victims stays relatively constant, awareness of ALS has gone largely unnoticed until recently.
On the other hand, the tide seems to be changing as it does seem that the battle to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease is increasing.
Often when people make a lifestyle change, so too, does their perspective about that change. For example, when a man grows a beard, he tends to have a greater awareness of the number of men who also have facial hair. The same is true of baldness.
So it is quite possible that my personal affliction has enhanced my instincts about ALS.
That said, I still get the distinct impression that there is a much larger overall movement toward awareness and research about ALS than ever before, as evidenced by the MLB project.
Just prior to our softball fundraiser in Charlotte, NC which topped out at more than $15,000, I received a personal letter from the Boston Red Sox about my condition.
It came unexpectedly from team president Dan Dombrowski, who wrote, “Wanted to write you and let you know that you are in the thoughts of everyone here at the Red Sox. We know you are a faithful follower of the team and have been for your entire life. We consider ourselves fortunate to count you as a member of “Red Sox Nation.”
“Wanted to write you and let you know that you are in the thoughts of everyone here at the Red Sox. We know you are a faithful follower of the team and have been for your entire life. We consider ourselves fortunate to count you as a member of “Red Sox Nation.”
Obviously, I am aware that if I walked into Mr. Dombrowski’s office, he would have no idea who I am. The point is that he took the time to write a personal message and send it.
For a lover of the game of baseball whose father was born the year after the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918 and died the year before they won it again in 2004, this was a special tribute I can share with the memory of my dad.
Many sports fans reject baseball because they say it is too slow. In this case, on Hall of Fame weekend, MLB hit a fast ball out of the park to the benefit of ALS. Too slow, perhaps, but for the moment, Major League Baseball is ahead of the curve.
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)
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