It’s Official: Each June 2 Will Be ‘Lou Gehrig Day’ for Major League Baseball
After a protracted campaign to make it happen, Major League Baseball (MLB) agreed to set aside each June 2 to pay tribute to the late Lou Gehrig, the legendary New York Yankees first baseman whose career was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The inaugural “Lou Gehrig Day” will be celebrated league-wide this June. Fellow baseball legends Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente are the only other players to have an MLB day marked in their honor.
June 2 is the day in 1925 that Gehrig began his record-breaking consecutive games streak — 2,130 in total over 14 years — and later, the day the “Iron Horse” died in 1941 at age 37 from the progressive neurodegenerative disorder that since has also been known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
“Major league baseball is thrilled to celebrate the legacy of Lou Gehrig, whose humility and courage continue to inspire our society,” Robert D. Manfred Jr., MLB commissioner, said in a press release. “While ALS has been closely identified with our game since Lou’s legendary career, the pressing need to find a cure 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,” Manfred added.
The designation serves three purposes, according to the MLB: honoring Gehrig and others whose lives were cut short by ALS, raising awareness of the disease and funds to fight it, and celebrating the groups and individuals working to end ALS.
On Lou Gehrig Day, each home club will host ceremonies and display “4-ALS” logos in ballparks, commemorating Gehrig’s uniform number. Players, managers, and coaches will all wear a “Lou Gehrig Day” patch on their uniforms, and players may also wear logo wristbands during the game. Teams that are off on June 2 will observe “Lou Gehrig Day” at the next scheduled game.
The MLB announcement comes after a campaign begun in 2019 by the ad hoc Lou Gehrig Day Committee to have a day earmarked for Gehrig. The committee, made up of ALS patients, caregivers, and family members, also includes the families of current MLB players Stephen Piscotty of the Oakland Athletics, who lost his mother to ALS, and Sam Hilliard of the Colorado Rockies, whose father has the disease.
“I have long been a fan of Lou Gehrig the player,” Adam Wilson, committee co-chair and an ALS patient, said in a statement released by the group. “Now I’m also a fan of him as a man and as the namesake of my disease. I’m proud to represent him as well as the entire ALS community as Lou Gehrig Day becomes a permanent fixture on the MLB calendar!”
A number of baseball team presidents also worked to bring colleagues to support a designated day. By the fall of last year, all 30 MLB teams had endorsed the committee’s efforts.
“Lou Gehrig Day will honor Lou’s accomplishments on the field, but also help millions understand this devastating disease that has claimed far too many of us, including my mother,” Piscotty said. “Before she passed she did everything she could to raise awareness of ALS and I know she’d be thrilled that Major League Baseball will now shine a spotlight on Lou Gehrig and ALS every season. Hopefully this awareness will lead to a cure.”
“Lou Gehrig was a legend on the field, but also because of the grace with which he handled his diagnosis of ALS,” Hilliard added. “My father is currently fighting ALS and continues to inspire me and all those around him. Lou Gehrig Day will be a celebration of all those living with ALS and their loved ones, but also a call to action to help us find a cure for ALS.”
In a 1939 speech at Yankee Stadium announcing his retirement due to ALS, Gehrig told the 62,000 fans in attendance that, despite his disease, he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”