MLB to Host Annual 'Lou Gehrig Day' to Raise Money, Awareness for ALS

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2021

New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig, the
Murray Becker/Associated Press

Major League Baseball has announced plans to host an annual Lou Gehrig Day on June 2. It will raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the New York Yankees legend was diagnosed with it in 1939.

ESPN's Jeff Passan first reported Thursday the plans include players wearing a "4-ALS" patch on their jersey, an homage to Gehrig's No. 4, and fundraising efforts to help the fight against the disease.

The idea stemmed from the LG4Day committee, an advocacy group that included songwriter Bryan Wayne Galentine, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2017 and two years later raised the idea to other members about working with MLB to honor Gehrig in a similar manner to Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, per Passan.

Galentine, who helped lead an effort to get all 30 teams on board with the proposal before taking it to MLB, died Oct. 22—two days after every club had agreed to the plan.

Staci Galentine, his wife, told Passan making sure the league honored Gehrig was her husband's "mission" during the final years of his life.

"It became his purpose," she said. "He ate, drank, lived, breathed it. To be able to take this game and this disease, put them together and see it come to fruition ... he knew it was coming. I'm so thankful for that day we found out this was happening. It is a celebration. This is not a sad thing. It's something he believed in so deeply."

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Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter, who sent an email in October to teams that hadn't pledged their support for the plan, credited the LG4Day committee for their tireless efforts and explained to ESPN why he chose to help the movement get across the finish line:

"This disease chose baseball. When you think about it, I think we have a responsibility and an obligation to continue to pay it forward. I can't imagine there's a franchise in the game that hasn't been touched by ALS. For us, it's personal. Other teams share that view. Certainly, we all share the connection to Lou Gehrig and what he stood for and represented. Finding a way to celebrate his legacy and the class and dignity he found in his darkest hours is something that's truly worthwhile."

Gehrig retired two days after his ALS diagnosis in June 1939 and delivered his famed "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech two weeks later during a celebration of his career at Yankee Stadium, and the club immediately retired his No. 4.

The New York City native died two years later, on June 2, 1941, at the age of 37.