August 20, 1938: Lou Gehrig Hits 23rd Grand Slam
On this day in 1938, the famous New York Yankees first baseman, Lou Gehrig, hit his 23rd Grand Slam (home run with a player on all three bases, worth 4 runs total).
Gehrig’s 23 Grand Slams remained the most on record until fellow Yankees player Alex Rodriguez broke Gehrig’s record in 2013.
The remarkable career of this exceptionally talented baseball player (nicknamed ‘The Iron Horse’) ended in 1939 when Gehrig was diagnosed with a terminal neurodegenerative disease which severely limits physical mobility (often to the point of paralysis), while not affecting the brain. The disease is known as “Motor Neuron Disease” (MND) in the UK, and as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in the US.
The diagnosis led Gehrig to retire at age 36. On July 4, 1939 — now known as ‘Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day’ at Yankee Stadium — Gehrig gave an emotional farewell speech that has become known as “Baseball’s Gettysburg Address.”
"Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…. I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for!” —Lou Gehrig, 1939
Lou Gehrig died two years later, just before his 38th birthday, but is still considered to have been one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and his name is the eponym of ALS/MND (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”).
Stephen Hawking is another famous person with ALS/MND.
The recent “Ice Bucket Challenge” has once again brought this cruel disease — which affects hundreds of thousands of people across the world — to the attention of the public. In the Ice Bucket Challenge, a famous person ((Bill Gates, Robert Downey Jr., the Foo Fighters, among others) have taken up the donation-challenge)has a bucket of ice water tipped over their head as a symbolic gesture of commitment to making a monetary donation to the ALSA (US) or the MNDA (UK), which are the dominant charities in the search for a cure for “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” To date, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has generated over $30 million in donations being made to the ALSA.