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Annual Stand Up To Cancer PSA airs during ASG

Celebrity-filled ad spot showcases MLB's longstanding relationship with research, awareness initiative
July 9, 2019

It all started with what they call "the nudge heard round the world." In January 2008, the nine women who founded Stand Up To Cancer -- Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Laura Ziskin, Rusty Robertson, Lisa Paulsen, Ellen Ziffren, Sue Schwartz, Kathleen Lobb and Noreen Fraser -- pitched White Sox and

It all started with what they call "the nudge heard round the world."

In January 2008, the nine women who founded Stand Up To Cancer -- Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Laura Ziskin, Rusty Robertson, Lisa Paulsen, Ellen Ziffren, Sue Schwartz, Kathleen Lobb and Noreen Fraser -- pitched White Sox and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf their plan in Ziskin's office at Sony Pictures. They would use their experience and resources as prominent figures in the entertainment and media industries to bring together and fund teams of scientists in an effort to unify and accelerate cancer research.

"He sat back and said, 'You know, I think this sounds fantastic, but I'm the wrong guy,'" said Robertson.

But Reinsdorf knew the right guy. He invited the women to the annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation later that week, where he'd arrange for an introduction to then-Commissioner Bud Selig.

In all their professional successes, none of the women had ever asked for as much as the $10 million they were hoping to secure from Major League Baseball that night. But they did, and Selig was interested. He planned to think on it before making a decision, Robertson said. Until his wife intervened.

"Sue Selig banged him in the side," Robertson said. "'Buddy, what are you waiting for?!’”

The nudge heard 'round the world.

"And he says, 'I'm in.'"

That began a relationship between MLB and Stand Up To Cancer that's now spanned more than a decade; a founding donor, MLB and its clubs have contributed more than $50 million. Those funds have supported Stand Up To Cancer’s unique model that emphasizes scientific collaboration to expedite the discovery of new cancer treatments. To date, the initiative has resulted in six FDA-approved therapies, more than 180 clinical trials and more than $603 million pledged to the work of more than 1,600 scientists.

“I’m just so filled with gratitude to Major League Baseball for the lives they’ve saved,” Robertson said.

The relationship continued at this year’s All-Star Game in Cleveland, where Stand Up To Cancer unveiled its latest public service announcement.

The PSA was filmed in May at Dodger Stadium with actors Uzo Aduba, Jordana Brewster, Matt Damon, Zachary Levi, Joe Manganiello and Candice Patton. The Los Angeles ballpark stood in for various scenes where people “stand up” at a baseball game, like snagging a foul ball or cheering a game-winning home run. It’s Stand Up To Cancer’s sixth PSA, and the campaign will run for the next two years with accompanying print, digital, radio and out-of-home media ads. It was produced by Shark Pig, a Los Angeles-based production company, and it was directed by Jesse Fleece.

“This is really about finding a cure to maybe the most deadly disease that’s ever affected humankind in the modern era,” Manganiello said.

“It’s going to take all of us, really stepping up and getting loud,” Aduba said. “Use your voice, use your dollars, use your friends and families to talk about it so we can all get serious about it now and not just get serious about it when it’s something that’s finally come to our own home.”

The PSA builds to the special in-game placard moment that’s been featured annually at the All-Star Game and World Series since 2011, where the action on the field is paused and everyone in the ballpark -- including coaches, players and umpires -- stands up and holds a placard displaying the name or names of those affected by the disease. It was an idea conceived by Ziskin, and when she passed away in June 2011, her surviving co-founders brought it to fruition. Fraser also died after her battle with cancer.

“We said, 'We have to do it. We actually have to do this now,'” Robertson said.

One month later, the women traveled to Phoenix for the All-Star Game, and they were among those who distributed the placards on all 48,633 seats at Chase Field.

“We all went out in like 112 degrees, and we put them on the seats,” Robertson said. “We did not know it was going to be such a uniting moment. But it just got better and better.”

The tradition has evolved into an iconic moment, and, again, tens of thousands stood up for a moment of silence Tuesday at Progressive Field.

“I’m standing up for survivors,” Manganiello said. “Those are people who have to live with this or have to look over their shoulder, hoping that they remain in remission. ... It’d be great if we could find a cure and help those people live the rest of their lives in peace and comfort.”

This year's placard moment included a tribute to Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who is battling chronic myeloid leukemia, a treatable form of cancer. Carrasco took the field surrounded by his All-Star teammates and manager Terry Francona. The placards of Francisco Lindor, Shane Bieber, Carlos Santana, Brad Hand and Francona read "Cookie", Carrasco's nickname. Carrasco's said "I Stand." Several other All-Stars, as well as MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred, had Carrasco on their placards.

“We all believe in him," Lindor said on the FOX broadcast. "He’s going to do it.”

For the actors participating in the PSA, which debuted during the game, it represented an opportunity to direct their audience toward a cause that’s important to each of them.

“If you’re given the opportunity to reach so many people, I just feel like it’s your duty to do something with that platform,” said Patton, who stars on the CW series “The Flash.” “Otherwise, what a waste of opportunity that’s been given to you. I think everybody has something they’re passionate about and would fight for. ... I have the time and the resources to be able to do this, so it’s a no-brainer for me.”

“Hopefully, we’ll raise money so that we can see some advances and, God willing, a cure for this unbelievable disease,” said Aduba, of "Orange Is the New Black" on Netflix. “I’m unfortunately on the side of having lost people to it, and I don’t want to lose anyone else.”

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.