Major League Baseball will hold its first Lou Gehrig Day on June 2, adding Gehrig to Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente on the short list of players honored throughout the big leagues.
Each home team will have “4-ALS” logos in ballparks to mark Gehrig’s No. 4, and all players, managers and coaches will wear a Lou Gehrig Day patch on uniforms and may use red “4-ALS” wristbands. Teams that are off on June 2 will observe Lou Gehrig Day on June 3.
MLB said Thursday that the day will focus on finding cures and raising money for research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the legacy of Gehrig and others who died of the progressive disease that attacks nerve cells controlling muscles throughout the body.
Oakland Athletics outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who lost his mother Gretchen to ALS almost three years ago, said he's thrilled MLB is honoring Gehrig and raising awareness for the disease.
“It's something our organization has been pushing for and we're ecstatic that there's finally going to be a day," he said. "And hopefully this can spur further awareness and we can really catch some momentum here and really do some good.”
The A's have hosted an ALS Awareness Night in recent seasons as a way to honor, among others, Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter and Piscotty's late mother. She died in May 2018 at age 55 — about a year after being diagnosed.
June 2 marks the 96th anniversary of when Gehrig started at first base for the New York Yankees in place of Wally Pipp, starting his record streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. The mark stood until September 1995, when it was broken by Baltimore's Cal Ripken Jr., who played 2,632 consecutive games in a streak that ended in 1998.
Gehrig died of ALS at age 37 on June 2, 1941. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1939, months after his abrupt retirement.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that Gehrig's “humility and courage continue to inspire our society” and “the pressing need to find cures remains.”
MLB's committee includes Piscotty; Colorado outfielder Sam Hillard, whose father has been diagnosed with ALS; and Milwaukee catcher Jacob Nottingham, whose family includes six people who died of ALS.
Teams and players helped raise millions of dollars in 2014's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The New York Yankees often mark the anniversary of Gehrig's farewell speech on July 4, 1939.