06/11/2014 10:10 AM -
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s retirement from Baseball due to his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The Oilmen will honor Lou Gehrig’s fight by hosting “Strike Out ALS” night at the ballpark on June 12, where the proceeds will go to the ALS Chicago Chapter to continue their research to find a cure for this devastating disease. While a cure does not exist yet, the fight that Gehrig fought must continue today for what he meant for baseball and what he still means for those who must stay strong during this difficult time in their lives.
Gehrig was born on June 19, 1903 in New York to German immigrant parents. His strong fight began at the start, as he was only one out of four children to survive childhood and lead a successful life in his family. Gehrig attended Columbia University to study engineering and play football. His mother insisted the he receive a quality education. While studying at the university, he played summer professional baseball, illegal if you were also a collegiate athlete, and was banned from Columbia athletics during his freshman year. Gehrig found his niche in baseball and was signed by an impressed New York Yankees staff in 1923 and the legend grew from there.
Gehrig hit for a lifetime .340 batting average and totaled 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs in his career. His most important streak, broken by Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1995, was his consecutive games played streak of 2,130 games. Gehrig won MVP in both 1927 and 1936, won the Triple Crown in 1934 and was a six-time World Series Champion. Gehrig was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in December of 1939.
Gehrig always fought extremely hard and embodied what it takes to battle this disease head on both on and off the field. On the field, Gehrig played his entire career in the shadow of one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Babe Ruth. By doing so, it made Gehrig work even harder to be recognized as one of the best players in the history of baseball, alongside Ruth. The commitment and powerful effort of Gehrig to cement himself among baseball immortality encompasses the commitment and passion he needed to continue to fight the disease. That same commitment and passion is dedicated to continuing to find a cure for the disease. Gehrig played with the odds against him his entire career, being in the shadow of one of baseball’s greats, but that did not slow down his battle through thick and thin until he finally lost his fight on June 2, 1941.
Gehrig embodied what it means to be a New York Yankee, an ALS fighter and a community leader. Toward the end of his life, when his health was deteriorating, he did not quit as he was asked to join the Parole Board by New York Mayor Fiorelli LaGuardia to help troubled youth and did so until ALS prevented him from finishing his 10-year term.
While Gehrig could not win his battle with ALS, it is fitting that the disease is now known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” as his life and fight clearly represent what is needed in order to find a cure for this debilitating disease. The Oilmen stand hand in hand with this effort and the June 12 event is just one of the many efforts both baseball and the nation are doing to help cure this disease.
Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day occurred on July 4, 1939, in recognition of his outstanding Yankee career. While Gehrig had a tremendous amount of tragedy and struggle in his life, he always carried positivity and strength with him, which those suffering ALS today need to continue to do in hopes of finding a cure. Gehrig’s most famous words were that he considered himself, “the luckiest man, on the face of the Earth” and even through difficult times, Gehrig lived life to the fullest and embodied the strength of a nation not just for his fight, but also for those around the country who face his same struggles.