Defeat ALS: Our Brothers' Battle (From Gehrig to Doxey)
Organized by: Chris Loschiavo
Lou Gehrig is remembered as one of the most talented and phenomenal baseball players of all time. More than that, however, he is remembered for his kind heart and winning attitude. In 1938, Gehrig fell below .300 for the first time since 1925 and it was clear that there was something wrong. He lacked his usual strength. Pitches he would have hit for home runs were only flyouts. Doctors diagnosed a gall bladder problem first, and they put him on a bland diet, which only made him weaker. Teammate Wes Ferrell noticed that on the golf course, instead of wearing golf cleats, Gehrig was wearing tennis shoes and sliding his feet along the ground. Ferrell was frightened. When asked if he would remove Gehrig from the lineup, manager Joe McCarthy said, "That's Lou's decision."
Gehrig played the first eight games of the 1939 season, but he managed only four hits. On a ball hit back to pitcher Johnny Murphy, Gehrig had trouble getting to first in time for the throw. When he returned to the dugout, his teammates complimented him on the "good play." Gehrig knew when his fellow Yankees had to congratulate him for stumbling into an average catch it was time to leave. He took himself out of the game. On May 2, 1939, as Yankee captain, he took the lineup card to the umpires, as usual. But his name was not on the roster. Babe Dahlgren was stationed at first. The game announcer intoned, "Ladies and gentlemen, Lou Gehrig's consecutive streak of 2,130 games played has ended."
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed Gehrig with a very rare form of degenerative disease: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is now called Lou Gehrig's disease. There was no chance he would ever play baseball again. On June 2, 1941, Lou Gehrig succumbed to ALS and the country mourned.
Ralph Doxey is a Phi Delta Theta Fraternity Brother of mine (my "Big Brother" no less.) Ralph was initiated in January 2000, and now lives with his wife in Tupelo, Mississippi. In late 2013, we received the news that Ralph was diagnosed with ALS. Like Ralph, Lou Gehrig was also a Brother of Phi Delta Theta (Columbia University.)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
For those of us serving in the military, we are more likely to contract ALS than civilians. The reasons are still unknown. You can read more at http://www.alsa.org/assets/pdfs/advocacy/als_military_paper.pdf
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