NEW YORK -- The disease that became known around the world because of one Major League Baseball superstar in New York is now front-and-center in public attention, and on Wednesday morning the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was taken up outside the MLB central headquarters by Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred, Joe Torre and 165 staffers in Midtown Manhattan.
Manfred proceeded to challenge Major League Baseball Advanced Media, MLB Network and MLB Productions. A donation of $100 per employee for ALS research was made by MLB, so that's at least $16,700 with much more coming, and Manfred noted that it is "a little add-on for us" as part of year-round efforts at the central and club level to fight "Lou Gehrig's Disease."
"I feel refreshed. It's a nice way to start the morning, with a cold bucket of water over your head," a soaked and barefoot Manfred said, wearing the same white 4ALS T-shirt worn by so many behind him. "But more importantly than refreshed, I just am really heartened by the showing that we had here this morning -- 160 people out here to get water thrown on their heads, really great. And Commissioner [Bud] Selig putting baseball behind the cause, I think it's a great thing."
Manfred said the challenge was issued by the San Francisco Giants, although it was technically the third such challenge he had received over the past week.
"It's tremendous," Manfred said. "It just shows the unity that we have in our workforce here in New York, and I know that the other business units, MLB Network, MLB.com and MLB Productions, are going to have showings that are equally good.
"Obviously because of the relationship to Lou Gehrig, ALS research has a very important role in our charitable efforts, and this was a nice opportunity to get on board with a tremendous movement that Pete Frates started."
Frates is a former Boston College baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2012, at the age of 27. He has been the inspiration behind the national phenomenon.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis attacks nerve cells called motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, leading to weakness and eventual paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including those used for breathing and swallowing. Every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with ALS in the U.S. There is no cure or effective treatment for ALS, and an estimated 30,000 people in the U.S. have the disease at any given time.
On July 4, MLB and all of its clubs commemorated the 75th anniversary of Gehrig's famous "Luckiest Man" speech, with in-park tributes. For that occasion, MLB donated $300,000, collectively, to the organizations that are leading the fight against ALS -- ALS Association, ALS Therapy Development Institute [ALS TDI], Muscular Dystrophy Association [MDA] and Project ALS. Yankees captain Derek Jeter and many of today's players have been among those joining in this challenge as it has swept across social media.
"In Yankee terms, that's Lou Gehrig's Disease," Torre said. "It's such a dreaded disease, and the only way to do something about it is to raise awareness and raise money. Thanks to MLB, we've raised a lot of money here today."
Torre was challenged himself by wife Ali and columnist Mike Lupica. Torre then issued his own challenge: His fellow 2014 Hall of Fame classmates -- Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas.
"[Ali] was in California and she said, 'I'm challenging you.' I said OK," Torre said. "I never say no to my wife, so that was a safe thing to do. Then I challenged my classmates from the 2014 Hall of Fame, and again it's for a great cause. I know that Bud Selig ... was going to donate 100 bucks [for every employee who participated]. ... On behalf of my Safe at Home Foundation, I'm going to make a donation, too.
"I sort of alerted La Russa this morning. He was in Washington, D.C., with his Arizona club, and I said, 'I'm challenging you with the Ice Bucket Challenge.' I hadn't heard back from him, yet, of course I left my phone upstairs. They'll take it up. I'm very proud to be in the Hall of Fame, but what a great class that was to be a part of."
Torre, now MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, is well-accustomed to having cold liquid dumped over his head, but this was a little different than the celebration scenes during that Yankee dynasty he managed.
"Champagne burns your eyes. So this is a little less imposing," Torre said with a smile. "But it's a great cause.
"The fact that it's caught on like it had, I guess the money raised is well over $20 million. It's great. It's a dreaded disease. There's really no cure at this point, hopefully through research that will change."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.