By Barry Janoff
July 2, 2014: Joe Mauer, Jose Abreu, Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira are among MLB first basemen from all 30 teams who appear in a spot that honors the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech.
They are joined by New York Yankees captain and shortstop Derek Jeter, who along with the other current players are seen reading from Gehrig's s "Luckiest Man" speech, interspersed with an historical film of Gehrig himself giving the speech. (See the full spot here.)
On July 4, 1939, Gehrig, suffering from the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stood at home plate between games of a doubleheader with the then Washington Senators in front of family, current and former teammates and more than 61,800 fans and gave a speech in which he called himself "the luckiest man on the face of this earth."
The Yankees' first baseman died less than two years later, at the age of 37, from what has since to become known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Since Gehrig's speech in 1939, 375,000 Americans have been diagnosed with the disease, according to the ALS Association, based in Washington, DC and with a national network of 38 chapters.
The video will air this week in every MLB stadium as part of a tribute to Gehrig, all intended to raise awareness of and funds for organizations seeking a cure for ALS. MLB said it would donate $300,000 to the cause.
The groups involved include ALS Association, ALS Therapy Development Institute, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Project A.L.S.
The Yankees today (July 2) are celebrating Gehrig with a commemorative booblehead giveaway presented by AT&T, with the first 18,000 fans in Yankee Stadium receiving the mini-statue. It shows Gehrig standing on the field in front of a microphone to simulate the event in 1939.
On July 4, when the Yankees are in Minnesota, the Twins have also scheduled a Lou Gehrig Bobblehead day to commemorate the anniversary of his speech.
Among the efforts for an ALS Association campaign that broke in May is support from A&E Networks, which is a joint venture between the Hearst Corp. and Disney Co.'s Disney-ABC Television Group.
A&E Network's History channel has produced a 60-second PSA about Gehrig that will air across its sister networks (including A&E, Lifetime and Biography) and will be distributed through its cable providers (including DirecTV, Dish, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse).
The ALS Association PSA-anchored effort includes TV, print, Internet, social media and other activations aimed to raise awareness of and generation donations for ALS.
The ALS Association is overseeing its Gehrig campaign with the assistance of the Rip Van Winkle Foundation (d/b/a The Lou Gehrig Society), which owns the property rights to the image, name and voice of Lou Gehrig and is represented by CMG Worldwide.
As part of this effort, MLB is unveiling a special commemorative 75th anniversary patch, which will be worn by all players, managers, coaches and umpires on July 4.
MLB.com will provide promotional support online, including links to MLBCommunity.org where visitors will be directed to a site to donate directly to the cause, across MLB.com, Cut4.com, all 30 club sites and through official MLB and club accounts on social media, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram, with the hashtag #Gehrig75. All donated funds will be shared equally by all four ALS organizations.
MLB.com will have complete coverage of the events at each MLBe ballpark with photographs, video highlights, interviews and stories from local and national reporters.
MLB Network will air special programming around the 75th Anniversary, including the Academy Award-winning film about Gehrig’s life and career, Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig, on July 6.
When Lou Gehrig delivered his historic farewell speech at Yankee Stadium 75 years ago, he indelibly linked our national pastime to the fight against the disease that would bear his name,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “As the fight continues today, it is our privilege to pay tribute to the Iron Horse’s enduring legacy of courage and nobility. In his memory, and for all those who are affected by ALS, Major League Baseball is honored to do its part to advance the cause in the hopes of finding a cure.”
According to the ALS Association, "ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis. For unknown reasons, veterans are approximately twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population."
The ALS Association also said that U.S. veterans have almost 60% more risk of contracting ALS than civilians, especially those who serve overseas, information based on research at Harvard University that dates back to 1910.
“The severity of ALS, the absence of effective therapy, and the importance of finding treatments for all neurodegenerative diseases, have combined to make ALS an attractive target for new approaches to drug discovery and development,” Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., MBA, chief scientist for The ALS Association, said in a statement.
The full list of first basemen in the Gehrig tribute video, per MLB:
Arizona Diamondback: Paul Goldschmidt
Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis
Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli
Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo
Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
Cleveland Indians: Nick Swisher
Colorado Rockies:Justin Morneau
Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez
Houston Astros: Jonathan Singleton
Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer
Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols
Los Angeles Dodgers: Adrian Gonzalez
Miami Marlins: Garrett Jones
Milwaukee Brewers: Mark Reynolds
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
New York Mets: Lucas Duda
New York Yankees: Mark Teixeira
Oakland A's: Brandon Moss
Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ike Davis
San Diego Padres: Yonder Alonso
Seattle Mariners: Justin Smoak
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt
St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Adams
Tampa Bay Rays: James Loney
Texas Rangers: Mitch Moreland
Toronto Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion
Washington Nationals: Adam LaRoche
Lou Gehrig's Speech From July 4, 1939:
"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 seventeen 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."
ALS Campaign To Honor Gehrig, Speech, Raise Funds, Awareness For Disease
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