It's been three years since Michael Goldsmith received what he calls his "death sentence": a diagnosis of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. In recent months, Goldsmith has seen the paralyzing muscular disorder, which has no cure, progress rapidly. His speech is impaired, and he's more reliant on a wheelchair.
Still, Goldsmith, 58, plans to be at Yankee Stadium July 4 to partake in baseball's 70th-anniversary celebration of what may be the sport's most memorable non-game moment: Gehrig's "luckiest man" farewell speech. Before every major-league game, a ceremony will honor the great Yankees first baseman as part of the launch of MLB's "4ALS Awareness" campaign.
It was Goldsmith's My Turn last November that triggered events. Since his diagnosis, Goldsmith has found solace in the game he loved as a boy. Baseball and ALS are inextricably linked through Gehrig—and to Goldsmith, it made sense that MLB should assume a leadership role in fighting the disease. "It's time to end the heartbreaking legacy that bears his name," he wrote. "I now look to the game of my youth to give me and others like me a chance for life."
New York Times columnist George Vecsey picked up on the idea—and, most important, baseball commissioner Bud Selig did, too. Selig says he has watched the Lou Gehrig biopic, The Pride of the Yankees, at least 50 times (and still cries at the end). "If our history can … help find a cure for this horrible disease," he tells NEWSWEEK, "it's the right thing to do."
Less than a week after the My Turn was published, MLB, working with Goldsmith, had already begun planning its Gehrig tribute. It's only the start; Selig promises an ongoing partnership with the ALS community. At all 15 games on July 4, the 4ALS logo will be prominently displayed on uniforms, batting helmets, and first base, and there will be live and video readings of Gehrig's speech as well as fundraising activities.
Goldsmith has been buoyed by MLB's commitment to his cause. While he may not consider himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth," he recognizes the enormous potential of this campaign. "ALS robs us of our future," he e-mails. "MLB's decision has produced renewed hope."