From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
Major League Baseball has enjoyed a rich tradition of holidays — Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day — during the regular season.
In recent seasons, MLB has added more special occasions — Breast Cancer Awareness on Mother’s Day, Prostate Cancer Awareness on Father’s Day and Players’ Weekend in August.
Also, baseball legends Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente have been the only players whose legacies are celebrated annually.
On Wednesday, MLB will celebrate the life and legacy of Lou Gehrig, the former Yankees’ Hall of Fame first baseman who once held baseball’s iron man record of most consecutive games played at 2,130 from 1925 to 1939.
Wednesday will be known as “Lou Gehrig Day,” and represents the 80th anniversary of Gehrig’s death from ALS — otherwise known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the terrible disease that ended his life. The day also represents when Gehrig became a regular in the starting lineup.
The annual, league-wide event will recognize Gehrig’s contributions to the game, raise awareness of the disease and involve fundraising.
I suggest any baseball fan to watch the 1942 movie, “Pride of the Yankees,” starring Gary Cooper who portrayed Gehrig a year after his death. The movie gave a stirring account of Gehrig, who rose to fame after joining the Yankees and then saw his career — and ultimately his life — slowly deteriorate through poor play and fatigue in the late 1930s from the disease’s effects.
Gehrig’s Fourth of July retirement speech in 1939 at Yankee Stadium was highly emotional and displayed his humility and courage. He died just 23 months later.
After his diagnosis, Gehrig immediately retired and finished with 493 HRs, 1,995 RBIs, 1,888 runs and a 1.080 OPS that ranks third all-time behind Babe Ruth (1.164) and Ted Williams (1.115).
ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Those afflicted lose their ability to walk, talk, eat and, eventually, breathe. There is no cure. More than 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year, according to the ALS Association, with an average life expectancy of two to five years.
On Wednesday, all players, managers and coaches will wear a uniform patch, with a red “4-ALS,” with the 4 representing Gehrig’s uniform number.
In today’s game, A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty lost his mother, Gretchen, due to ALS in 2018. Rockies reserve outfielder Sam Hilliard’s father is currently fighting ALS.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at email@example.com