June 2 was specifically chosen as the date for Lou Gehrig Day as it marks when Gehrig became the Yankees starting first baseman, cementing the start of his incredible streak of consecutive games played, as well as the day he passed from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
According to an MLB press release, the focus of Lou Gehrig Day is focused on: (1) remembering the legacy of Gehrig and all those lost to the disease that bears his name; (2) raising awareness and funds for research of ALS; and (3) celebrating the groups and individuals who have led the pursuit for cures. This special occasion follows a campaign led by the “Lou Gehrig Day Committee,” comprised of individuals, family and friends affected by ALS, as well as organizations leading the way on awareness and fundraising for the movement to end the disease.
Affectionately known as the “Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig is one of the greatest players in all of baseball history. On June 2, 1925, Gehrig became the Yankees starting first baseman on his way to his legendary streak of 2,130 consecutive games played, which ended on April 30, 1939 and would stand for more than 60 years. Gehrig’s career is highlighted with two American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, a Triple Crown, six World Series championships, seven All-Star appearances and the 1934 batting title. His farewell speech to the baseball world on July 4, 1939, amid the struggles of a debilitating disease, displayed the humanity and grace that has become synonymous with his legacy. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in December 1939. Gehrig succumbed to ALS on June 2, 1941.
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to celebrate the legacy of Lou Gehrig, whose humility and courage continue to inspire our society,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred via 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 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 Lou Gehrig Day, each home Club will host ceremonies and display “4-ALS” logos in ballparks, commemorating Gehrig’s uniform number “4.” Additionally, all players, managers and coaches will wear a special “Lou Gehrig Day” patch on uniforms while red “4-ALS” wristbands will be available to be worn in-game. Clubs with an off-day on June 2 will observe Lou Gehrig Day on June 3. Additional ceremonial and activation details around Lou Gehrig Day, which will be organized in part with the Lou Gehrig Day Committee, will be announced at a later date.
ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that can strike anyone at any time. People with ALS lose the ability to control their muscles, which affects their ability to walk, talk, eat, and eventually breathe. There are an estimated 20,000-30,000 people living with ALS. There is no significant treatment to extend life or cure ALS, but there are currently several potential treatments in late-stage clinical trials.