Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it will hold an annual Lou Gehrig Day on June 2, recognizing and celebrating the legendary New York Yankees slugger and his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Using that benchmark event, MLB will raise money to battle ALS while working to educate fans about the disease while recognizing major advocacy groups such as the LG4Day committee.
“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. “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 honoring 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.”
On that day, teams will wear a jersey patch honoring Gehrig that reads “4-ALS” — paying tribute to the No. 4 that he wore for 17 seasons from 1923-1939 with the Yankees.
The date is a significant one as it was the first game of Gehrig’s then-MLB record 2,130 consecutive games played in 1925 and also the date of his death 16 years later in 1941.
Gehrig is still considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all-time and a transcendental star of Major League Baseball’s rebirth from the ashes of the Chicago White Sox scandal in which they threw the 1919 World Series.
He brought further unprecedented power to the Yankees’ lineups of the 1920s, which most famously featured Babe Ruth before becoming the face of the franchise in the 1930s.
Gehrig won six World Series titles with the Yankees, made seven All-Star Game appearances — it would have been more, but the Mid-Summer Classic was not established until 1933 — was named AL MVP twice and won the 1934 Triple Crown, leading the league with a .363 batting average with 49 home runs and 166 RBI.
With 2,721 hits, Gehrig ranks 16th in MLB history with a .340 batting average, third with a 1.079 OPS, and seventh with 1,995 RBI to go with 493 career home runs.
The model of consistency, Gehrig held the MLB record for most consecutive games played before it was broken by Baltimore Orioles star and Hall-of-Famer, Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995.
But after benching himself after eight games of the 1939 season, Gehrig’s streak and playing career came to an end after a swift and troubling decline in his power, speed, and coordination.
In June of that season, Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS.
Less than one month later, on July 4, Gehrig was honored by the Yankees and became the first ballplayer ever to have his jersey number retired. It’s a day that is best known for his address to the crowd — most notably when he opined “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
The Baseball Hall of Fame waived its rules of retired ballplayers having to wait five years until they were inducted, enshrining him in December of 1939, though a formal ceremony was never held. He was the youngest player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at 36 until Sandy Koufax was inducted in 1972, also at the age of 36.