On Thursday Major League Baseball announced plans to honor Lou Gehrig, the historic New York Yankees first baseman who was forced to retire because of ALS (the disease that now bears his name), with his own honorary day. "Lou Gehrig Day" will be celebrated league-wide on June 2. The league plans to hold Lou Gehrig Day every season moving forward, and teams who don't play on June 2 will honor Gehrig on June 3.
According to MLB, that date was chosen because it marked when Gehrig became the Yankees' starting first baseman. Gehrig displaced Wally Pipp in 1925.
Gehrig is the third player MLB has chosen to honor with a specific day, joining Jackie Robinson (April 15) and Roberto Clemente (Sept. 9). Here's more behind the creation of the day, per the league's press release:
The focus of Lou Gehrig Day will be on three pillars: (1) remembering the legacy of Gehrig and all those lost to the disease that bears his name; (2) raising awareness and funds for research of ALS; and (3) celebrating the groups and individuals who have led the pursuit for cures. This special occasion follows a campaign led by the "Lou Gehrig Day Committee" (www.lg4day.com), which is comprised of individuals, family and friends affected by ALS, as well as organizations leading the way on awareness and fundraising for the movement to end the disease.
Gehrig hit .340/.447/.632 (179 OPS+) with 493 home runs over a 17-season career. He won two Most Valuable Player Awards, made seven All-Star Games, claimed six World Series championships, and even won a Triple Crown. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939 through a special election. He then died two years later, in 1941, at the age of 37.
Gehrig is perhaps best known for playing in 2,130 consecutive games -- from June of 1925 until April of 1939. Cal Ripken Jr. is the only individual to top Gehrig's mark, having done so in September of 1995, or nearly 60 years later.
ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a "s a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control," according to the Mayo Clinic. There is no known cure for the disease.