Results tagged ‘ ALS ’
By Bill Francis
Hall of Fame legend Lou Gehrig delivered his memorable “…I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech on July 4, 1939. Seventy years later, little Gehrig Hopson was delivered.
It was on June 10 that Jeff Hopson, a supporter of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Membership Program since 2007, called the Hall of Fame seeking some insight into the life of Lou Gehrig – explaining that he and his wife were considering naming their soon-to-be-adopted son after the longtime Yankees first baseman. Jeff is a big baseball fan, especially the history of the game, and wanted to know if there was anything he may have missed in the Iron Horse’s past that could change his mind.
There wasn’t. In fact, when the Hall of Fame held its first Character and Courage Weekend on Nov. 1, 2008, it unveiled statues of Gehrig, Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson as symbols of the finest characteristics of the human race.
Gehrig James Hopson was born in Glendale, Ariz., on June 12, 2009, the 70th anniversary of the Hall of Fame’s official dedication. Soon after, the Hopsons, Jeff and wife Amy, brought their new son back to their home in Hilliard, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.
Coming up with a middle name was relatively easy, as both Jeff and Amy’s fathers are named James. But that first name would take a little more consideration.
“I probably came up with the idea after I read the Jonathan Eig book (Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig),” said Jeff Hopson in a recent telephone interview. “I’m adopted myself and I started thinking I’d really like to have a boy, and if I have a boy I wonder what I’d name him.
“When I went to the Hall of Fame for the first time two years ago (a 40th birthday present from his wife), I bought three or four Lou Gehrig things. And then I was like, ‘I really like that name Gehrig. It’s unique and it’s different.’ At first I was wondering if my wife would like it.”
According to Amy Hopson, it didn’t take much convincing.
“When my daughter was born (5-year-old Jaelyn) we wanted to come up with a non-traditional name, so hers is a combination of my middle name and the J from Jeff. So when we were thinking of boys names we wanted a non-traditional name as well,” Amy said. “We talked about Gehrig and some other names, and of course that’s the name he’ll have for the rest of his life, so we wanted to make sure we thought about it.
“Ultimately, we just liked Gehrig the best. It was nice to find a name that was unique but also stood for something – his character and who he was and how he was courageous through his life. Not just respected as a player but as a man.”
The Hopsons did not tell anyone of their choice until the big day came.
“The first that we told was the birth mom. We told her why, she really liked it, and that made us feel good,” Amy said. “But now that we’ve shared it with family and friends everybody just thinks it’s the greatest. We’ve had a couple people say, ‘Oh, I wish I’d have thought of that.'”
Recently retired pitcher Curt Schilling, a longtime supporter in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named his first son Gehrig.
“Last night the Gary Cooper movie, The Pride of the Yankees, was on and I was watching it and my daughter came in and she said, ‘Why did she call him Gehrig,?'” Jeff said. “I told her, ‘That’s Lou Gehrig. That’s who we named your brother after.’ And she ended up sitting there and watching the whole thing with me.”
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Samantha Carr
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. – Terence Mann
As demonstrated in this iconic quote from the film Field of Dreams, our National Pastime has reflected and often shaped American culture. It is woven into the very fabric that makes up America. Baseball has a connection and an undeniable relevance to this country, which can be seen simply by looking back at the history of baseball on Independence Day.
Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. – Lou Gehrig
Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig stood in front of a crowd at Yankee Stadium and uttered these now famous words seventy years ago Saturday. The speech took place on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, about a month after he learned of his terminal diagnosis. Less than two years later, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – a disease that would one day bear his name – would claim the life of the Iron Horse, who played 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees.
The July 4, 1939, ceremony was held between games of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators in front of fans, dignitaries and former teammates. The Yankees retired his uniform No. 4 – making Gehrig the first player ever afforded that honor. The crowd stood and applauded for two straight minutes following Gehrig’s speech.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum houses numerous artifacts in its collection from both Gehrig’s career and that special day in 1939 – including a 21 ˝ inch silver trophy given to Gehrig by his 1939 Yankee teammates. But the connection between July 4 and baseball spans much more than one special day.
The Museum’s collection also contains a glove used by future Hall of Famer Rube Waddell in a 1905 pitching matchup with fellow Hall of Famer Cy Young; and a ball and Yankees cap from Dave Righetti’s no-hitter in 1983.
For almost 100 years, future Hall of Famers have recorded historic performances on July 4. In 1925, the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia A’s in a classic pitching duel between two future Hall of Famers. Herb Pennock of the Yankees retired the final 21 batters he faced to beat Lefty Grove.
Baseball is forever tied to our nation’s history, and as we fire up the grills and make some of our own baseball memories on July 4, it is clear that those ties will not soon be broken.
Happy 4th of July!
You can find the history of any day in baseball on our Web site.
For more on Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech, check out the Induction issue of the Hall of Fame’s Members magazine Memories and Dreams. To become a Member, please click here.
Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Bill Francis
Of the 26 former big league players who participated in Sunday’s inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic, only two were in the big leagues as recently as last season. One says he’s retired for good; the other is willing to listen to offers.
Jeff Kent was a slugging second baseman who captured the 2000 National League MVP Award, while Mike Timlin a stalwart relief pitcher who helped four teams win World Series titles. Between the pair of baseball veterans are 35 seasons and almost 3,400 games of major league action.
According to Kent, who ended last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers with 377 career home runs, including his record-setting 351 as a second baseman, he’s ready for the next phase of his life.
“I’m 41 now and my desire to compete is going out a little bit,” Kent said before the Classic. “I’ll probably always think I could compete, but at what level I don’t know. It’s time for the younger kids to start taking on the game.
“I think the last 10 years of my career I played the game a lot better in my mind than I did with my body.”
For Timlin, 43, while he sees the writing on the wall, he’s unwillingly to completely concede his playing career has come to an end.
“Nothing’s totally official,” said Timlin, who played the last six seasons with the Boston Red Sox. “I had my name out there in spring training, so something could happen this summer. If someone gives me a call that I would deem worthy to walk away from the family for a little while, it could happen.”
Both players have been generous over the years about donating artifacts from their careers to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“They’re probably collecting dust in the basement,” joked Kent, who donated, among other things, the bat he used to hit his 278th homer as a second baseman, breaking Ryne Sandberg‘s former career mark. “It’s neat that I was a part of history for the 17 years that I played.”
Among the Timlin artifacts in the Museum – which like all artifacts are kept in climate-controlled environments – are the spikes he wore when he made his 1,000th appearance as a pitcher.
“It’s an honor just to be asked to have something in there,” Timlin said. “I know my career numbers are not going to put me in there with a plaque on the wall, so it’s nice to actually have something in there that is part of me.”
Timlin’s last visit to Cooperstown was with the Red Sox as a participant in the 2005 Hall of Fame Game.
“My mom passed away from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), so I took a picture with Lou Gehrig‘s first baseman mitt,” Timlin said. “That was pretty neat.”
This was Kent’s first visit to Cooperstown, but with the career he’s had he could one day find himself with a Hall of Fame plaque of his own.
“I’ve never been a baseball historian, so because of that I’ve never really been able to compare myself to anybody else. I never got caught up in the history of the game because I felt like that might erase some of my competitive nature,” Kent said. “I always competed for the moment rather than competing for the past or competing for the future. When you know that history about me, for me to think about where I stand within baseball history, I have no idea.”
But Kent did admit to some curiosity after being around some of the Hall of Famers as part of the Hall of Fame Classic.
“I’m learning more about the intrigue, the specialness, the mystery of the Hall of Fame and the classiness of these players that are in the Hall. And to say that I can be a part of that in the future I appreciate,” Kent said. “I’ve always tried to separate myself from things I can’t control. I played the game and I played it right and hopefully that’ll stand up for itself. We’ll see.
“Being able to say that I was one of the better players is an honor in itself whether somebody votes for me or not.”
And with his long career possibly having come to an end, Timlin can look back with a certain wide-eyed awe.
“God’s blessed me tremendously just to do what I’ve done,” he said. “It has been awesome.”
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Jeff Idelson
“Here’s the pitch from Downing … swinging … there’s a drive into left-center field. The ball is gonna beeee … out of here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home-run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron.”
That was the radio call of Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton on April 8, 1974, when Aaron broke Babe Ruth‘s long-standing home-run record. As important as that milestone was, and as immortal as Hamilton’s words have become, that singular event is precisely why Aaron ranks among baseball’s most underrated ballplayers.
Fans tend to remember Lou Gehrig because he died from ALS. Outside of Baltimore, Cal Ripken Jr. is remembered for “the streak.” And Aaron is often remembered for the home runs, though he accomplished so much more.
On this — the eve of the opening of Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, our new exhibit dedicated to Aaron at the Baseball Hall of Fame — it is appropriate to consider the magnitude of what Aaron accomplished on and off the field.
Who is the all-time leader today in RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits? Hank Aaron. “The Hammer” also ranks second all time in home runs, third in hits and fourth in runs. He showed up to play every day, which is why he is among the top five all time in games played, at-bats and plate appearances.
Aaron’s also a member of the prestigious 3,000-hit club. Take away each and every one of his 755 home runs, and he still has 3,016 hits.
Said teammate Phil Niekro of Aaron’s home runs after No. 700, “It’s like the sun coming up every morning. You just don’t know what time.”
Over 23 seasons, Aaron was great, averaging 33 home runs and 100 RBIs with a .305 batting average. He was a 25-time All-Star, representing his league every year except his rookie year and final season. Aaron was in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting 12 times, winning it in 1957 when the Braves won the World Series. By the way, Aaron hit .393 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the Braves’ victory over the Yankees in the Fall Classic.
Not only was he great, but Aaron was consistently awesome: He hit 20 or more home runs 20 times, drove in 100 or more runs 11 times and hit better than .300 14 times. He hit .303 with 385 home runs at home and .306 with 370 home runs on the road. His batting average never varied by more than 10 points, month to month, over his career.
The Hammer was raised in Mobile, Ala., a hotbed for talent. Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith and Billy Williams were all born in Mobile, a city with a population under 200,000.
Aaron accomplished so much with a quiet grace and dignity which he brought to the ballpark every day in a time of racial divide in America. He was also among those who integrated the South Atlantic League, and he broke Ruth’s home-run mark in the face of intense hatred and racism. It’s no surprise that his hero was Jackie Robinson, who paved Aaron’s way to the way to the Majors.
Jeff Idelson is the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Trevor Hayes
About a week ago, I finished reading Luckiest Man by Jonathan Eig. I got the book in November during the Hall of Fame’s Character and Courage statue unveiling. The event honored three men who deserve a special place in the Hall of Fame. Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig now greet every visitor who enters the Museum, reminding them of the values we baseball fans admire.
Compared to the encyclopedias I work with, I’m very much a baseball history novice — actually strike that, and we’ll call it like it is: I’m a baseball novice. In the weeks prior to Character and Courage Weekend, I heard a great deal about these men. Before arriving in Cooperstown, I knew about Jackie and the color barrier, and I’d heard a little about Clemente. Gehrig, however, was just the guy who played with Babe Ruth. He had a disease named after him, but the biggest thing I recognized him for was holding the record that Cal Ripken Jr. broke.
That’s a vivid memory for me. I watched Ripken beat the streak on a TV in a bowling alley in Kansas City. The bartender let me sneak in to watch Chirs Berman’s call. Despite being only 10, I think she knew I needed to see what was happening, even if I didn’t understand it. For some time now, I have understood the magnitude of the streak. It started two years before I was born and when it was over, I was 14. I know it may be one of baseball’s unbreakable marks. But now, the important thing for me about Ripken’s streak is the man who came before Cal.
My baseball career ended in middle school after a broken finger and a broken nose. Gehrig played with broken fingers and didn’t notice them. That’s just the tip of it with Gehrig. He literally played until he couldn’t. ALS sapped his ability and withered his strength. He continued to play every game in 1938, despite starting to lose muscle mass as early as the winter before that season.
ALS strikes quickly and attacks the extremities and coordination first. Gehrig almost immediately lost his baseball skills. Throughout the book, Gehrig was both human and hero. Once he was diagnosed, he became a human, stripped of the athleticism that made him special. But at the same time, he wasn’t. He came to terms with his affliction; he never let it deter his spirit. The way he dealt with his “bad break” — as he referred to it during his farewell speech — is an inspiration that can be admired today.
At 24, I am still finding baseball heroes, and with the 70th anniversary of his final season and his unforgettable speech approaching, I am going to remember Gehrig’s character and courage.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.