Major League Baseball will maintain a sportwide Lou Gehrig Day starting this year, honoring the Hall of Fame New York Yankees first baseman whose grace and guts fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis prompted a group of these affected by the illness to create June 2 synonymous with him.
The plans, announced by MLB on Thursday morning, comprise an annual tribute in which uniformed employees will wear a jersey spot observing Gehrig, along with also a”4-ALS” emblem — commemorating his No. 4 — will be displayed around stadiums. The team will use the occasion to raise money and awareness to battle ALS and pay homage to ALS advocacy groups like the LG4Day committee, which turned out an off-the-cuff text into a reason that will bring together the sport.
“Major League Baseball is delighted to celebrate the legacy of Lou Gehrig, whose humility and courage continue to inspire our culture,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a prepared statement. “While ALS has been closely identified with our match because Lou’s legendary career, the pressing need to discover remedies stays. We look forward to honoring each of the people and households, in baseball and beyond, who have been affected by ALS and hope Lou Gehrig Day improvements attempts to end this disease.”
On June 24, 2019, songwriter Bryan Wayne Galentine, who had been diagnosed with the disease two years earlier, texted friends whom he’d met through the tight-knit ALS community:”would you think it would [be] possible and appropriate to approach mlb with doing something with Lou Gehrig like they’ve done Jackie Robinson?”
Within the past two years, Galentine along with his co-chairs, Adam Wilson and Chuck Haberstroh, have strategized to persuade MLB to honor Gehrig using a day as it will Robinson and Roberto Clemente. For almost eight decades, Gehrig has become the face of ALS, a neurodegenerative disease with no cure. Gehrig died June 2, 1941, the same date of the first start in his record 2,130-consecutive-games-played streak that had begun 16 years before.
As much as baseball has been synonymous with the disease — from Gehrig’s”Luckiest Man Alive” address into Pete Frates, the former college star who helped popularize the Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over $100 million — the objective of LG4Day was to get something more specific than teams holding their particular ALS awareness days. From that very first text to the initial assembly in August 2019 together with the seven original members of LG4Day, they sought concrete endings, and Galentine epitomized the group’s spirit.
“From day one, that has been his assignment.”
The group grew in size and tightened its own strategy. Moving directly to MLB would be fruitless. The league was loath to mandate any type of a sportwide edict. If Lou Gehrig Day was likely to happen, it would be with assistance from all 30 teams.
Wilson, who was diagnosed with ALS at 2015, was the secretary, canny with logistics. Haberstroh, whose mother, Patty, was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, was the voice, always at the ready for a chat. Galentine, whose friends called him B-Wayne, was the connector — charming, personable and effective at getting gamers such as Oakland’s Stephen Piscotty and Colorado’s Sam Hilliard, both of whom had parents with ALS, onboard.
Seven teams joined the cause prior to the team hit what felt like a dead end. That didn’t stop Galentine, even as he was losing his ability to move and utilizing eye-gaze technology to communicate.
“He spent a lot time on it,” said Galentine’s elder son, Grayson, who is 16. “Especially when we were in quarantine. Fundamentally from if he awakened to if it was time for supper, he was in his room on his computer.”
Arizona Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall, Boston Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter agreed to email the presidents of the nearly two dozen teams that hadn’t pledged support for a Lou Gehrig Day. Within minutes, the answers poured in. Obviously. Absolutely. What a fantastic idea. For two decades, LG4Day had pictured this, and it was finally happening.
“They deserve all of the credit,” St. Peter said. “The story they tell resonated with all people. When those men reached out, it was a no-brainer.”
From Oct. 20, less than 24 hours when they sent the email, all 30 teams were still in. MLB’s rubber stamp will be adjacent. Nobody was happier than Galentine. Then ALS, ever cruel and unrelenting, turned that moment of joy into despair. Galentine expired Oct. 22.
“It turned into his purpose,” Staci Galentine said. To be able to take this match and this particular disease, put them together and see it come to fruition… he knew that it was coming. I’m so thankful for that day we discovered this was happening. It is a celebration. This is not a sad thing. It is something that he believed in deeply.”
Now, June 2 can be a day for baseball, per day for Lou Gehrig, but also a day for others, like Bryan Wayne Galentine, such as Adam Wilson, like Pete Frates and his Ice Bucket Challenge partner Pat Quinn, such as Gretchen Piscotty and Jim Hilliard and Patty Haberstroh, such as the estimated 5,000 people a year in the USA diagnosed with ALS.
“This disorder picked baseball,” St. Peter said. “When you think about it, I believe we have a responsibility and a duty to continue to pay it forward. I can’t imagine there is a franchise at the sport that has not been touched by ALS. For us, it’s personal. Other teams share that opinion. Surely we all discuss the connection to Lou Gehrig and what he stood for and represented. Finding a way to celebrate his heritage and the course and dignity he discovered in his darkest hours is something that’s truly rewarding”