Major League Baseball will celebrate its inaugural "Lou Gehrig Day" during the 2021 season on June 2, an effort to commemorate the legacy of the New York Yankees legend, raise money and awareness for ALS charities, and celebrate the groups and individuals who have led the pursuit for cures.
With the announcement, Gehrig will join fellow baseball legends Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente as the only players who are recognized annually with dedicated league-wide days.
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to celebrate the legacy of Lou Gehrig, whose humility and courage continue to inspire our society," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a press release. "While ALS has been closely identified with our game since Lou’s legendary career, the pressing need to find cures remains. We look forward to honouring all the individuals and families, in baseball and beyond, who have been affected by ALS and hope Lou Gehrig Day advances efforts to end this disease.”
The date June 2 holds two significant meanings in Gehrig's life, as it is both the day he began his then-record 2,130-consecutive games played streak in 1925 and the day he died in 1941 from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
After his passing from the ALS at the age of 37, Gehrig's name became synonymous with the fatal neurodegenerative disease. Over time, people living with ALS lose the ability to control their muscles, impacting their ability to walk, talk, eat and eventually breathe. No significant treatments exist to cure ALS or extend a patient's life once they are afflicted with it, but ongoing research has produced several treatments in late-stage clinical trials.
Songwriter Bryan Wayne Galentine helped form a group, the LG4Day committee, two years ago to lobby MLB to create a Lou Gehrig Day, inspired by the way baseball celebrates Robinson and Clemente every season. By getting help from players such as Stephen Piscotty and Sam Hilliard, who had parents with ALS, LG4Day was eventually able to get all 30 teams to sign off on the proposal on Oct. 20. Galentine would die from the disease two days later.
“Lou Gehrig Day will honour Lou’s accomplishments on the field, but also help millions understand this devastating disease that has claimed far too many of us, including my mother," Piscotty said in a press release. "Before she passed, she did everything she could to raise awareness of ALS and I know she’d be thrilled that Major League Baseball will now shine a spotlight on Lou Gehrig and ALS every season. Hopefully this awareness will help lead to a cure.”