Eighty years ago on July 4, Lou Gehrig gave one of the most famous speeches in American history. His speech marked his retirement from baseball because of his recent diagnosis of ALS. Gehrig was honored by many on the field that day, and his number 4 was retired, the first time a player had ever had his jersey retired. The New York Times called it “one of the most touching scenes ever witnessed on a ball field.”
In being public about his diagnosis, Gehrig raised awareness of a disease that was virtually unknown at the time. Yankees fans, as well as all baseball fans, and most Americans, now knew someone with ALS. His openness about the disease – in addition to his dominance on the ball field and his reputation as being a true gentleman – made him the face and name of ALS for decades to come.
Following Lou’s lead, and in the wake of the global phenomenon known as the Ice Bucket Challenge, more people with ALS are now – more than ever – open and willing to share their diagnosis of ALS to help raise awareness and funds for the fight against this disease. They are now the faces of ALS.
So we honor and remember Lou Gehrig today not because he had ALS – but because of what he did both before and after his diagnosis with ALS. And we honor and thank the thousands of people with ALS and their friends and families, who are all willing to share their stories, advocate for change, and urgently fight for treatments and a cure for ALS.
The Challenge Me campaign picks up where the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge left off. This time, the ALS community is challenging everyone to do anything and everything they can to cure ALS. Click here to learn more.