Fans join players, personnel for demonstration entering sixth inning
ST. LOUIS -- Blair Williams, 13, held up a Stand Up To Cancer card in section 234 of Busch Stadium before the top of the sixth inning during World Series Game 4 on Sunday. It read: "I STAND UP FOR: JIM WILLIAMS."
That's her father, who has a sarcoma, considered fairly rare, as they represent about 1 percent of the 1.5 million new cancer diagnoses in America each year.
"It was very special, because her father is fighting cancer," said Lisa Wood, Blair's mother. "So it was a great moment for her to be able to do something for her dad."
"It was really cool to just stand and show my dad's name," Williams said. "Everyone was doing the same thing."
Williams and Wood were part of a sellout crowd of 47,469 that participated in the fifth annual Stand Up To Cancer moment during a Fall Classic, as Major League Baseball continued its program of community initiatives. Game 4 was dedicated to advancing the fight against cancer, and specifically helping SU2C, which gets innovative therapies to patients quickly and empowers "Dream Team" scientists to collaborate and help end cancer in our lifetime.
Fans and on-field personnel stood after a countdown leading into the sixth inning, holding "I STAND UP FOR" placards with names on them as a dedication to people affected by cancer.
David Ortiz held an inspirational meeting with his teammates in the dugout after the bottom of the fifth inning, then all of the players exited the dugout for the event. Soon after, Jonny Gomes hit his big three-run homer, and he cited SU2C circumstances afterward. One of Gomes' placards was for his late high school coach, the other one was for a "battle-tested" 5-year-old fan.
"It was just pretty ironic that happened in the top of the sixth," Gomes said during his postgame news conference. "I think there were some angels above the stadium looking down on myself and everybody else."
So here's what everyone who participated, whether in the ballpark or by watching the FOX telecast, wants to know: How did the in-game moment actually help?
Dr. Arnold Levine, vice chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of SU2C, participated at the ballpark, and he wants nothing more than to answer that question for every single person.
"What's been so extraordinary about the foundation of Stand Up To Cancer is that it has changed the way we do our science," Levine said. "It really has made a difference. We have the financial resources to do experiments, we are encouraged to be bold, we bring together teams of people who collaborate and interact, and it's just been a change in the way we do our science.
"And the progress has moved much faster because of that. We're into really testing ideas in patients in a much more rapid fashion than ever before, and that will pay off in the end. There have been very big changes in just the four years that the foundation has been in existence, and we have the support of the pharmaceutical industry and the support of the academic infrastructure and the universities, and it's been a big boon to the way we can do cancer research today."
Ask Levine which advancement excites him the most and he pauses, only because, he says, "All of my children are beautiful, and I love them equally."
But then Levine is quick to name names, because he and the SU2C team know everyone wants to see progress.
"One Dream Team, working on pancreatic cancer, has changed our understanding about how pancreatic cancer grows," Levine said. "About how these cells multiply and divide. What chemical substances they use. We thought it was glucose. It turns out to be a different chemical substance called glutamine, an amino acid. It changes the way you want to treat the disease, it changes the way you want to detect the disease and it changes our understanding of what's happening in the cancer cell itself.
"That's a big change in just two or three years of research. Now new drugs can be developed because of this, and new methods of detection of pancreatic cancer can be developed. So that has been a huge success, in my opinion.
"It's a cancer with a very high death rate, and the reason is [that] it is detected so late. It's like ovarian cancer. And we've learned new things about ovarian cancer, about breast cancer. There has been a whole opening of new ideas and directions, and what's really remarkable is, the resources are sufficient to test ideas, from the laboratory to the clinic."
Siblings Alan and Katie Reichard of Jefferson City, Mo., would welcome such speed, as they have seen how quickly cancer can kill. They each held up a sign for a good friend named Lish Davis, who passed away a few months ago at the age of 33 due to thyroid cancer.
"She was gone in less than a year," Alan Reichard said. "She has a little boy, less than 2. Her cancer was not discovered until she was pregnant."
"They had to induce her when she was 7 months [along]," Katie Reichard added. "She went to the chiropractor for neck problems, and they saw a lump in her throat."
These are the kinds of thoughts many people had during the course of a great sporting event.
"Any kind of awareness that is brought to such a big issue like cancer resonates well, not just in baseball but across the country," Alan Reichard said. "Everybody has lost somebody to cancer. It's meaningful when baseball takes time out to focus on something as powerful as the issue of cancer, and hopefully it draws attention to things that are a little bit bigger than the game of baseball. It's nice to take a minute or two to focus on those we've lost, and hopefully we find a cure for it."
In 2008, MLB became a founding donor of SU2C, which has funded 10 research teams with 500 scientists from more than 100 institutions; more than 3,000 patients have participated in clinical trials facilitated by SU2C. MLB has committed more than $35 million to SU2C since its inception, and the organization has received significant support from players, fans and all 30 clubs.
"It's all about the fans," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business. "Cancer is a disease that touches everyone, and baseball wants its fan base to know -- we want the country to know, we want the world to know -- that we care. I think that taking a moment during the World Series is the ultimate statement that people care. The umpires, the players, the fans, the executives -- everybody's connected to someone who was ravaged by the disease. So it's personal to everyone, which makes it a more personal moment to the industry, and all the more meaningful."
In the leadup to Game 4, SU2C debuted a mobile app that enables users to create custom photo placards that name their loved ones in whose honor they are taking a stand. During the broadcast, SU2C debuted a public service announcement campaign, titled "Stand Up, Anytime, Anywhere." Two PSAs aired in connection with the in-stadium moment leading into the sixth inning.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia appears in one PSA and is shown using the app to create a placard for his wife, Kelli, a melanoma survivor. Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval appears in another and is shown creating a placard and declaring that he stands up for his friend Donna Musgrave, also a cancer survivor.
MasterCard, the preferred card of MLB, presented SU2C with a donation of $4 million as part of its "Dig In & Do Good" campaign, which launched at the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York. SU2C ambassador and two-time Emmy-winning actor Eric Stonestreet was on hand for the pregame check presentation, which also included Commissioner Bud Selig's wife, Sue. The $4 million was raised with the help of fans, whose purchases of $10 or more on their MasterCard when dining out or ordering in resulted in donations to SU2C.
This year's "Dig In & Do Good" campaign included a public awareness television spot featuring Stonestreet and an ad featuring the Phillie Phanatic and Mr. Met.
"Both my grandpas passed away from cancer," Stonestreet said before the game. "An uncle, and now my mom is a two-time cancer survivor -- uterine and kidney cancer. You name it. I'm not unique in any way. Fortunately, though, there are a lot of developments that give hope in the fight against cancer."
Everyone is getting involved, as they did during Game 4. Now it's time to start winning.
"That's the important thing," SU2C co-founder Sue Schwartz said after the in-game moment. "Ultimately, the only thing that matters is, 'What's the impact on a patient?' The rest of it is a means to an end."