MLB said it will have its inaugural Lou Gehrig Day on June 2 to honor the Hall of Fame first baseman and raise awareness for ALS. Photo by Legendary Auctions/Wikimedia Commons
MIAMI, March 4 (UPI) -- MLB will celebrate its first "Lou Gehrig Day" on June 2, holding what is expected to be an annual tribute to the New York Yankees' Hall of Fame first baseman, who battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the league said Thursday.
Gehrig spent 17 seasons with the Yankees and won six World Series titles and two MVP Awards. He died June 2, 1941, due to complications from ALS. He was 37.
"June 2 was specifically chosen as the date for Lou Gehrig Day as it marks when Gehrig became the Yankees starting first baseman, thus cementing the start of his incredible streak of consecutive games played, as well as the day he passed from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease," MLB said in a news release.
Players and coaches will wear a jersey patch in celebration of Gehrig during the festivities. A "4-ALS" logo -- in reference to Gehrig's number and the disease -- also will be displayed throughout stadiums. MLB also will use the celebration to raise money for ALS advocacy groups.
Players will be allowed to wear red "4-ALS" wristbands during games June 2 or June 3, if their team doesn't play June 2.
Gehrig joins Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente as the only players who are commemorated with dedicated dates on the MLB calendar.
"MLB is thrilled to celebrate the legacy of Lou Gehrig, whose humility and courage continue to inspire our society," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. "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."
Gehrig played his first MLB season in 1923. He won his first World Series in 1927. Gehrig also won titles in 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937 and 1938.
His 1927 Yankees team is considered one of the best teams in MLB history. The Yankees' 1927 roster featured Gehrig, fellow Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Earle Combs, Wait Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri and Herb Pennock, and posted a 110-44 record.
Gehrig delivered one of the most famous speeches in sports history during his retirement announcement July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium. The Luckiest Man speech came weeks after Gehrig's ALS diagnosis was confirmed.
"For the past two weeks, you have been reading about a bad break," Gehrig said. "Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans."
"I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for," Gehrig said at the end of his speech.