Fundraising to fight ALS through Lou Gehrig #4 jersey sales

January 15th, 2009 by Sandy

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disease with a name that I never thought I would be motivated to pronounce let alone spell until my sister, Janet was stricken with it. Now, thanks to the internet, I know way more about this illness then I ever would have imagined.

Most people have an awareness of ALS as Lou Gehrig ’s disease from the Gehrig’s July 4, 1939, “luckiest man alive speech”:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans…”

Gehrig’s consecutive game streak of 2,130 games as a Yankee player (a record that stood until Cal Ripken, Jr. broke it in 1995) did not come easily. He played well every day despite many injuries. His endurance and strength earned him the nickname “Iron Horse.”

In 1938, Gehrig fell below .300 for the first time since 1925 and it was clear that there was something wrong. He lacked his usual strength. Pitches he would have hit for home runs were only fly-outs. Doctors diagnosed a gall bladder problem first, and they put him on a bland diet, which only made him weaker. Teammate Wes Ferrell noticed that on the golf course, instead of wearing golf cleats, Gehrig was wearing tennis shoes and sliding his feet along the ground. Ferrell was frightened. When asked if he would remove Gehrig from the lineup, manager Joe McCarthy said, “That’s Lou’s decision.”

Gehrig played the first eight games of the 1939 season, but he managed only four hits. On a ball hit back to pitcher Johnny Murphy, Gehrig had trouble getting to first in time for the throw. When he returned to the dugout, his teammates complimented him on the “good play.” Gehrig knew when his fellow Yankees had to congratulate him for stumbling into an average catch it was time to leave. He took himself out of the game. On May 2, 1939, as Yankee captain, he took the lineup card to the umpires, as usual. But his name was not on the roster. Babe Dahlgren was stationed at first. The game announcer intoned, “Ladies and gentlemen, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive streak of 2,130 games played has ended.”

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed Gehrig with a very rare form of degenerative disease: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is now called Lou Gehrig’s disease. There was no chance he would ever play baseball again. On June 2, 1941, Lou Gehrig succumbed to ALS. (This information is from

My search of the internet DID NOT REVEAL a connection that I expected to find: a philanthropic connection between the New York Yankees and any broad based organization raising funds to fight ALS. To their credit, the Gehrig site did have links to ALS organizations, but again no meaningful push to donate to ALS causes.

Why aren’t the Yankees fund-raising for ALS? They are selling “authentic” (made in Taiwan) Lou Gehrig #4 jerseys on their website. Check out:

I feel that the amazing and powerful Yankees organization (My husband is Bronx-born and we are passionate supporters) should be selling #4 (Gehrig’s retired #) jerseys with ALL the profits going to fight ALS. Perhaps there could be something on the jerseys to identify families touched by ALS…… I know I would wear it with both pride and sadness.

With Janet, we are not sure when she began to notice that something was wrong. There are recollections of complaints in the late summer and fall of 2006 that she seemed to lack her usual strength and stamina while bicycling. She was tired out from rides that normally would not have been challenging for her. She seemed to be on a trajectory similar to Lou Gehrig’s and like him succumbed to the disease in about two or so years this past Thanksgiving.

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7 Responses to “Fundraising to fight ALS through Lou Gehrig #4 jersey sales”

  1. soxfan Says:

    If Lou had played for the Red Sox, Theo Epstein would have been ALL OVER this. LEt’s email this posting to the Yankees. Surely the “Evil Empire” is not as heartless as we Sox fans think it is.

  2. yankeesfan Says:

    never thought I would agree with a Sox fan!

  3. bceconomist Says:

    Another great idea. THis site never disappoints. Economists are usually skeptical of new ideas because if they were that good someone would have thought of them already, as we say in my field. However, it’s perfectly clear the Yankees haven’t thought of this or they would already be doing it

  4. tomb Says:

    Make sure to post (or send to everyone who has read this post) when this happens. I want to buy one for a friend whose brother died of ALS. I like the “small” ideas on this site better than the big ones because they can be implemented right away — post more small ideas please!

  5. othersoxfan Says:

    if they don’t immediately do this they really are teh Evil Empire. If making a little bit of money on the few #4s they sell now is more important to them than raising millions (and it would be millions with enough PR) for AlS, I will hate them even more than I do now if that’s possible

  6. alewis Says:

    Dear ThinkOOB,

    I recently read your blog’s post from January about fundraising for ALS through the sale of Lou Gehrig jerseys. Thank you for helping to create awareness for this debilitating disease through this post. Every bit of publicity helps.

    I work with Cyber PR, a digital firm for artists. We are currently working with a 36 year old musician from East Lansing, Michigan named Ace whom was diagnosed with ALS three years ago. He has since defiantly pursued his lifelong passion of writing music with his band, Ace Noface. Ace has garnered rave reviews for both his songwriting technique and his refusal to give in to ALS.

    Ace had to learn a whole new way of making music, using one finger, some computer software, and email. It was a daunting task, but Ace quickly found a benefit. He explains, “When I’m writing music or lyrics I completely get lost in it – I forget that I have any kind of disability.”

    This optimism in the face of adversity has caught the attention of the media, from the Chicago Tribune to college radio. Ace was also recently one of 31 Americans with ALS who were selected throughout the United States to be featured in an online national awareness campaign by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

    We would be honored if you would consider taking a listen to Ace’s music and sharing it with the readers of your site.

  7. Mary Whisner Says:

    Great idea! — Mary

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