There are few people, let alone players, who have embodied the Yankee mystique than Lou Gehrig did. “The Iron Horse” embodied professionalism, integrity, and grit, always putting the team before everything, even as a cruel disease robbed him of everything he worked for at such a young age. From his youth in Manhattan, through his days at Columbia University through all those great Yankees teams and even into that last iconic speech, Lou was, and still is, “The Pride of The Yankees.” He is someone that I talk about with the younger players who may not know the story every chance I get.
So it gave me great pleasure to see that Major League Baseball, and the Yankees in particular, will now honor Lou in a formal way every June 2, with Lou Gehrig Day across the league. The day will call attention to Lou’s life, as well as raise funds for the horrible disease, ALS, which took him and still robs so many even today of many of the life skills we take for granted. It is the day that Gehrig began his consecutive games played streak in 1925, and the date of his death in 1941.
On Tuesday, we will be on hand at Yankee Stadium as Neil Herbstthrows out the first pitch. Neil has his own unique tie to Lou Gehrig and ALS. As a young man, George Steinbrenner saw some people at a high profile restaurant making fun of him, and as George could only do, used his own crazed language and booming voice to get the people away from this young man. He then went one better, asking young Neil to join the club as a batboy, much in the way he often brought in challenged or disadvantaged young people in to the Yankees family (including myself). He became a batboy, and now as he goes through his own challenges with ALS, he is still a part of the Yankees family, with the great Lou Gehrig and the Boss smiling down on him.
I am forever proud of the fact that the Yankee organization has not forgotten what the heart and soul of being a Yankee is all about.
The on field activity won’t be the only way the baseball community will be helping keep the fire burning for the Gehrig story. Strat-O-Matic, a game which we are sure Lou would have loved, and one which keeps bringing more and more people to baseball, will donate 10% of net sales on Tuesday to The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter, as well as creating several custom games for its fans to enjoy. The three simulations include an extension of Gehrig’s career past 1939, had he not been stricken with the progressive neurodegenerative disease that often bears his name; a home run derby between Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris; and a contest featuring all-time stars who wore his famed #4. How much fun is that? It’s also a great way to pull all together for the ultimate Yankees captain.
A life lost to early, but never forgotten, the great Number 4.