A Drop in the Bucket
When Lou Gehrig was born in East Harlem, New York, he weighed almost 14 pounds. Like many young boys in New York, he dreamed of growing up to play for the Yankees. He would eventually do just that, and in the process become as large a Yankee and professional baseball player as he was a newborn baby. In 1926, a 23-year old Gehrig hit .313. In the ’26 World Series, he hit two doubles and 4 RBIs, batting an impressive .348. He followed that up in 1927 by posting a .373 season average. He was selected as the AL MVP that year. Over the course of 17 seasons, all with New York, he hit 493 homers, 1,995 RBIs, was a multiple MVP winner, and set numerous records. His most impressive record, which earned him the name “The Iron Horse,” was a run of 2,130 consecutive games played, a record that would stand for 56 years until it was finally broken in 1995 by Oriole Cal Ripken. On July 4, 1939, Gehrig stood on the third base line of Yankee Stadium and addressed his fans:
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.”Lou Gehrig had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease that would come to bear his name. In December of that year, he was entered into the Baseball Hall of Fame by special election at age 36. Two years later he would be dead. Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a motor neuron disease that turns off the signals that travel through the body telling your muscles to work. Those with the disease experience coordination problems, begin having difficulty speaking, lose the ability to communicate, and eventually die. The general life expectancy of someone recently diagnosed with the disease is around 3 years. For some unknown reason, prize-winning physicist and author Stephen Hawking has lived with it for over 50 years, but he is one of a very small percentage to have done so. Steve Gleason spent almost a decade as a devastating safety for the New Orleans Saints. In 2011, he announced that he, too, was battling Lou Gehrig’s. Over the past weeks, thousands have taken to social media to accept the Ice Bucket Challenge. The mission is, once challenged, to dump a bucket of Ice Water over your head or make a donation to fight ALS within 24 hours. Since July 29, everyone from Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers to Justin Timberlake and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have accepted the challenge. A few weeks ago, from a wheelchair and speaking through a computer program, Steve Gleason accepted the challenge. There is currently no cure or treatment for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Unlike many neurological diseases, it steals the body but leaves the mind intact. People like Gleason eventually find themselves trapped in a useless shell. The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $4 million for the ALS association, and more for similar groups. But when you think of the devastating effects of Lou Gehrig’s, isn’t a few million dollars just a drop in the bucket?