Lou Gehrig's Disease - Motor Neuron Disease - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Thought it had been cured by now? Still no known cause. Still no cure. Still quickly fatal. Still outrageous.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Newsweek Speaks

Let's hope this strikes a chord with Major League Baseball. July 4 should be the day 4 ALS. It has gone on too long. Michael Goldsmith's death one year to the day after Newsweek published his op-ed is a stinging reminder of the viciousness of ALS.

Thank you, Newsweek, for these words today:

In Memory of Michael Goldsmith, Baseball Fan and ALS Activist

Tuesday, November 03, 2009 12:32 AM
By Kate Dailey
Michael Goldsmith, the baseball fan who penned the Newsweek My Turn column that became a literal game-changer for Major League Baseball, died this week at age 58.

Goldsmith suffered and finally succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, the degenerative condition robbed Gehrig of his major leagure career and robs 30,000 Americans at any give time of their ability to walk, speak, and eventually breath. It's a rare disease -- striking 2 out of 10,000 -- but a brutal one, agonizing for both those who suffer from the disease and those who love them.

Gehrig is the most famous face of ALS, but it was Goldsmith who suggested, in a NEWSWEEK My Turn column that ran on November 1, 2008, that baseball join the fight in a more public and organized way:

Major League Baseball has never taken comprehensive action against ALS. Defeating ALS will require the same type of determination, dedication and drive that Gehrig and Cal Ripken demonstrated when they set superhuman records for consecutive games played. With this in mind, why not make July 4, 2009, ALS-Lou Gehrig Day? Dedicate this grim anniversary to funding research for a cure; every major- and minor-league stadium might project the video of Gehrig's farewell, and teams, players and fans could contribute to this cause.

The column soon caught the attention of the New York Times and MLB commissioner Bud Selig, and the plan Goldsmith envisioned was put into action. On July 4th of this season, the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech, players wore commemorative patches. ALS groups sold awareness buttons, and ballparks played video of Gehrig's noble farewell on the jumbotrons. Goldsmith was honored at Yankee Stadium that day, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. His family later recalled how much he savored that experience -- despite being an Orioles fan.

Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement about Goldsmith's passing, saying he was "deeply saddened" and offering his condolences. Game 5 of the World Series, played yesterday in Philadelphia, was dedicated to Goldsmith's memory. Throughout the game, fans were encouraged to donate to ALS charities by visiting the MLB blog 4ALS Awareness. According to the George Vecsey, who wrote about Goldsmith's NEWSWEEK column in the Times, "Commissioner Bud Selig said Goldsmith believed in the power of one person to make an impact, and he promised that Goldsmith’s aspirations would continue to be honored."

It would be a tribute to both Gehrig and Goldsmith and a testament to the enduring power of sports, teamwork, and camaraderie if the entire league took that "comprehensive action" Goldsmith suggested. It's worth nothing that the Philadelphia Phillies, who are currently trying to battle their way out of a 3-2 deficit against the Yankees in the World Series, have raised over $11 million in the past 25 years through their charity work with The Greater Philadelphia ALS Society. A league-wide campaign to actively fight ALS and support those who suffer from it would go a long way to aid the cause and to bring back some lost dignity to America's Pastime.

Aside from being a baseball fan, Goldsmith was the the Woodruff J. Deem professor of law at Brigham Young, and a husband, father, son, and brother. We at NEWSWEEK offer his friends and family our deepest sympathies.

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