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Updated: June 4, 2021
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story & Photos by Marco Stoovelaar)

Major League Baseball organizes inaugural Lou Gehrig Day

NEW YORK, New York (USA) - Major League Baseball organized the inaugural Lou Gehrig Day on Wednesday, June 2, eighty years after the legendary player passed away on this day in 1941 at the age of 37. Two years earlier, Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which also became known as 'Lou Gehrig Disease'.

The fighting spirit Gehrig showed during his illness still influences current patients. And it is for that reason the Major League Baseball will honor the legendary player with a special day each year on June 2 to raise money and awareness for ALS research, as the disease is still incurable.

On Wednesday, the inaugural Lou Gehrig Day was organized at all stadiums in Major League Baseball by all 30 teams. Teams that had no game scheduled on Wednesday, held their Lou Gehrig Day on Thursday. Around the stadiums there were '4-ALS' logos, with the four standing for Gehrig's uniform number. All players, managers, coaches and umpires wore a 'Lou Gehrig Day' patch on their uniforms.

...Lou Gehrig Day video narrated by Cal Ripken, Jr. (MLB Video)...
At the videoscreens in the stadiums, a special video, narrated by former player Cal Ripken, Jr., was shown. In 1995, Ripken broke Gehrig's 'unbreakable' record of consecutive games played.

On both Wednesday and Thursday, the clubs organized on-field ceremonies focusing on the awareness of ALS. There also was special merchandise, including T-shirts and other memorabilia, avialable in the stadiums.

During the famous Ice Bucket Challenge more than 200 million dollar was raised for ALS research. On Lou Gehrig Day, the legacy on the field on the famous player will be honored and awareness about the disease is raised throughout the world. The money raised on Lou Gehrig Day will be spread to various ALS charities and organizations.

In the announcement of Lou Gehrig Day, Major League Baseball said:
,,The inaugural ''Lou Gehrig Day'' will be celebrated throughout the League during the 2021 Championship Season on Wednesday, June 2nd. On this date, Gehrig will join fellow Baseball Legends Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente as the only players whose legacies are celebrated annually with dedicated, league-wide days.''

In the announcement, MLB further stated:
,,The focus of Lou Gehrig Day will be on three pillars: (1) remembering the legacy of Gehrig and all those lost to the disease that bears his name; (2) raising awareness and funds for research of ALS; and (3) celebrating the groups and individuals who have led the pursuit for cures. This special occasion follows a campaign led by the ''Lou Gehrig Day Committee'', which is comprised of individuals, family and friends affected by ALS, as well as organizations leading the way on awareness and fundraising for the movement to end the disease.''

Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said in the announcement:
,,Major League Baseball is thrilled to celebrate the legacy of Lou Gehrig, whose humility and courage continue to inspire our society. While ALS has been closely identified with our game since Louís legendary career, the pressing need to find cures remains. We look forward to honoring all the individuals and families, in baseball and beyond, who have been affected by ALS and hope Lou Gehrig Day advances efforts to end this disease.''

...Lou Gehrig's plaque at...
...the Hall of Fame... Cooperstown...
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
,,Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.

I might have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.''

...Cal Ripken, Jr. talks about breaking Gehrig's record (MLB Video)...
These words are famous and historic. These words were spoken on July 4, 1939 by Lou Gehrig, the legendary first baseman of the New York Yankees. On this day, in Yankee Stadium, Gehrig, the first captain of the Yankees, made his farewell speech.

Gehrig was stricken with a dreadful disease that ended his life almost two years later. Seventeen days before he would have turned 38. Gehrig passed away on June 2, 1941.

The disease was Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, and is known as 'Lou Gehrig's Disease' since. It's a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease.

Henry Louis Gehrig was well-respected in Major League-baseball for his durability. Gehrig played in a record 2,130 consecutive games and was nicknamed 'The Iron Horse'. His career batting average in 17 Major League-seasons (1923-1939, all with the Yankees) was .340 and he won the Triple Crown in 1934. He collected 2,721 basehits, including 493 homeruns. Gehrig played in seven All Star Games and won the World Series six times. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1927 and 1936. The consecutive game streak was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken, Jr..

During the 1938 season, Gehrig's performances started to drop somewhat. That continued during the first month on the 1939 season. On April 30, 1939, Gehrig went hitless against the Washington Senators, which was his 2,130th consecutive game. After a day off, on May 2, Gehrig went to Manager Joe McCarthy telling him he wouldn't play 'for the good of the team'. That ended his record-setting consecutive game streak. Gehrig remained with the Yankees for the rest of the season as the team captain, but never played in a game again. When Gehrig's condition started to worsen, he traveled to the famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on June 13, 1939. After six days of extensive testing, the diagnosis that he had ALS was confirmed on June 19, his 36th birthday.

On December 7, 1939, Lou Gehrig was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a special election.

The story of Lou Gehrig's life was made into a movie, 'The Pride of the Yankees', which premiered on July 14, 1942. Gary Cooper played the part of Gehrig in this wonderful and emotional movie, which was directed by Sam Wood. Teresa Wright played his wife Eleanor and the cast also included wellknown actors as Walter Brennan and Dan Duryea. The legendary Babe Ruth, a longtime teammate of Gehrig, played himself in the movie, which was nominated for eleven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor and Actress in a Leading Role. It won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

...Margriet Stolp...
(© Marco Stoovelaar)
Lou Gehrig's Disease also touched the Dutch baseball and softball-family. Official Scorer Margriet Stolp, who was active in the Dutch big league in both baseball and softball for 14 seasons, passed away on March 30, 2006 at the age of only 61 due to the disease. During her career, Margriet also was an Official Scorer during several internationals events, including the European Baseball Championship in 1995 and 2003 and two Haarlem Baseball Weeks.

The complete text of Lou Gehrig's farewell speech is as follows:

,,Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.''

(June 4)

...Left: Lou Gehrig's photo in de National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (USA)...
...regarding his consecutive game streak...
...Right: Grand Slam-webmaster Marco Stoovelaar in front of...
...Lou Gehrig's orginal locker in the Hall of Fame...
(© Both Photos: Marco Stoovelaar; Photo right made by Coen Stoovelaar)

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