70 years after his death, baseball observes inaugural Lou Gehrig Day

Sports

FILE – New York Yankees’ Lou Gehrig poses at a spring training game in St. Petersburg, Fla., in this March 16, 1935, file photo. Major League Baseball will hold its first Lou Gehrig Day on June 2, 2021, adding Gehrig to Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente on the short list of players honored throughout the big leagues. (AP Photo/Tom Sande, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Major League Baseball teams will honor one of its all-time greats on Wednesday. Lou Gehrig Day will be recognized for the first time by baseball clubs across the country.

Gehrig, known as the “Iron Horse” for his hitting prowess and durability, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, in 1939. The disease that would later share his name led to the New York Yankee first baseman’s death two years later on June 2, 1941. The date is also the anniversary of his first game with the “Bronx Bombers.”

In the 10 games scheduled across MLB, “4-ALS” logos will be displayed in each ballpark, commemorating Gehrig’s jersey number. All players, managers and coaches will wear a special “Lou Gehrig Day” patch on uniforms, and red “4-ALS” wristbands will be worn by players. Teams that are off Wednesday will observe Lou Gehrig Day on Thursday.

In this Oct. 4, 1936, file photo, winning pitcher Monte Pearson, left, and Lou Gehrig celebrate after Game 4 of the World Series against the New York Giants, in New York. The Yankees went on to win the series 4 games to 2. (AP Photo/File)

Ceremonial first pitches and on-field recognitions will be centered around the ALS community and Lou Gehrig Day T-shirts will be available for purchase.

Steve Gleason, the former NFL New Orleans Saints safety whose fight with ALS was captured in the documentary “Gleason,” will synthetically recite a portion of Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man” speech in a video narrated by Cal Ripken Jr. and produced by MLB Network that will be shown on video boards during the fourth inning, or pregame in some ballparks, of all games.

Ripken, nicknamed the “Iron Man,” surpassed Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak of 2,130 games in 1995. Ripken eventually went on to play 2,632 consecutive games.

Gehrig played 17 seasons, all with the Yankees, finishing his career with a .340 batting average, 493 home runs, 1,995 runs batted in, and 2,721 hits. He was a seven-time All-Star and won the World Series six times. He was named the American League MVP in 1927 and 1936.

The Yankees retired his No. 4 jersey on July 4, 1939, during the middle of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators. It was then that Gehrig gave his well-known “Luckiest Man Alive” speech.

New York Yankees’ Lou Gehrig wipes away a tear while speaking during a sold-out tribute at Yankee Stadium in New York, in this July 4, 1939, Major League Baseball is holding its first Lou Gehrig Day June 2, adding Gehrig to Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente on the short list of players honored throughout the big leagues. (AP Photo/Murray Becker, File)

Upon his retirement from baseball he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in a special election. In doing so he became the youngest player to enter the Hall.

Gehrig is one of 15 players since 1901 to win the Triple Crown, lead a league in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the same season. Gehrig won his in 1934. The last winner of a Triple Crown is Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

In 2014, former Boston College baseball player Peter Frates began the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS research. Frates, who had the disease, began the phenomenon that went on to raise $225 million to fight the disease. Frates died in 2019 from ALS.

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