Amidst the ever so popular Facebook and Instagram videos of, ‘The Ice Bucket Challenge,’ there are some people who are losing sight of what is really important, and that is funding the foundation for ALS.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and as the website states “is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.” In other words, it can affect every bodily function and attack the nervous system, making it hard to go through everyday life.
The reason ALS is as well-known as it is because it is better referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Lou Gehrig is one of the greatest to ever put on a Yankee uniform, or any uniform for that matter. Gehrig’s is career was shortened when he was diagnosed with ALS. In 16 seasons with the New York Yankees, Gehrig amassed 2,721 hits, 493 home runs, 1,995 RBIs, a career batting average of .340 and a career OPS of 1.080. Gehrig, along with the very appropriately titled lineup of Murderer’s Row also helped lead the Yankees to six World Series titles.
After an illustrious 15 seasons, Gehrig’s play started to decline significantly as most playing careers do. However, it wasn’t because his body was naturally breaking down because he had been in the MLB for so long. In fact, he was coming off of a season where he hit .351 to go along with 37 home runs. In his 16th season, his stats dropped significantly, his batting average went from .351 to .295. That batting average is still very good, but not good for Lou Gehrig. The last time he had a batting average under .300 was 13 years prior to 1938, he was striking out more and walking less, his power was down, and his hit total was down. This wasn’t age breaking his body down; toward the end of the 1938 season there was something visibly wrong with him but nobody, including Gehrig, knew what it was.
In spring training prior to the 1939 season, Gehrig had actually collapsed during a game. The end of his career was near, and it was heartbreaking. The start of the season was a nightmare for him, the first eight games, he hit just .143 (4-28) with no home runs and one RBI. On the ninth game of the season after 2,130 consecutive games, spanning 14 years, Gehrig took himself out of the lineup, and although would spend the rest of the season on the bench as the team’s captain, would never play in another baseball game ever again.
Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS on his birthday, June 19th, 1939. Only a few weeks after he was diagnosed, he delivered one of the most famous speeches in sports history at Yankee Stadium on July 4th, 1939. Concise and sweet, Gehrig talked about how he knows people had heard about how poorly he was doing, but that he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” he thanked the fans, and for the most part, that was the last they would see of him.
Two years later, on June 2nd 1941, just a few weeks from his 38th birthday, Gehrig died from the disease. He will be remembered as the greatest first baseman to ever play the game, but he will also be remembered for the impact he had on making ALS well known, so much so, that the disease itself is appropriately known as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease.’ If it weren’t for Lou Gehrig making the disease known all over the world, the foundations, donations, and support may never have come, at least to the extent it has. The Ice Bucket Challenge is great in theory, but remember that the ALS foundation needs funding. Doing the challenge simply for fact that there is an option to not donate, is not how it should be. So before doing the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ always keep in mind Lou Gehrig is the reason you can.
If you would like to donate to the ALS Foundation, follow this link.