by Matthew Taylor
He grew up in Queens in the ’60s but rejected the Yankees to become an Orioles fan. He’s even attended the Birds’ fantasy camp, where he heard Dave Trembley’s story of trying to get tossed from a game without cussing and choosing the term “den mother” to fill the space for expletives. But those aren’t really the reasons you should appreciate Michael Goldsmith. Instead, you should appreciate Goldsmith’s efforts to draw attention and funding to the fight against ALS, a disease he’s been fighting since 2006.
Goldsmith, 57, wrote a “My Turn” piece for Newsweek at the beginning of the month.
“I received my death sentence in September 2006 when doctors told me I had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressively paralyzing neuromuscular disorder. There is no cure. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the Yankee Hall of Famer who died of it, ALS is so uncommon that medical researchers consider it an ‘orphan’ illness—so few people have it that pharmaceutical companies lack financial incentive to invest in finding a cure.
The public also pays scant attention to ALS. (May 2008 was ALS Awareness Month. Who knew?) Public attention and contributions understandably go to more widespread killers like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.”
He has since been profiled in other outlets, including the New York Times. In other words, the message is starting to spread and should continue to do so.
“After playing baseball in Queens as a child, Goldsmith later picked it up in his 30s in an amateur league, against former college and minor league players, learning to switch-hit and becoming a better player than he had ever been. Early this year, he attended a fantasy camp run by his favorite team. The former Orioles Jeff Tackett and Bill Swaggerty worked with Goldsmith, pushing him onward with basic ballplayer humor: ‘They never let me get maudlin,’ Goldsmith said.”
But there is more than just a good story to tell here. Goldsmith’s trip to the O’s fantasy camp has inspired him to advocate for making July 4, 2009, ALS-Lou Gehrig Day in baseball.
“At some point, we talked about whatcould do to fight ALS, and I realized that next July 4 will mark the 70th anniversary of ‘s famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Since his retirement, more than 600,000 Americans have shared Gehrig’s fate, as medical science has made virtually no progress toward finding a cure. Through the years some players and a few teams have occasionally helped raise funds, but Major League Baseball has never taken comprehensive action against ALS. Defeating ALS will require the same type of determination, dedication and drive that Gehrig and Cal Ripken demonstrated when they set superhuman records for consecutive games played. With this in mind, why not make July 4, 2009, ALS-Lou Gehrig Day? Dedicate this grim anniversary to funding research for a cure; every major- and minor-league stadium might project the video of Gehrig’s farewell, and teams, players and fans could contribute to this cause. An event of this magnitude has the potential to raise millions, dwarfing the relatively scant sums that ALS walks, rides and similar small-scale efforts have produced.”
As the Orioles start to do a better job of fan relations, this is one cause they’d be wise to support in any way possible. Consider this one resounding vote in favor of Goldsmith’s effort. Here’s hoping the Birds’ game at Anaheim on July 4, 2009, is part of ALS-Lou Gehrig Day. Fans can also help the effort by contributing money and/or time directly to the ALS Association.
[Image source: The New York Times (courtesy of Michael Goldsmith). Click photo for original.]