NEW YORK -- For nearly a quarter century, the Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Gala has served as a celebration of progress, a yearly marking of the continued efforts to find a cure for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. That tradition continued Thursday night, when the ALS Association's Greater
NEW YORK -- For nearly a quarter century, the Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Gala has served as a celebration of progress, a yearly marking of the continued efforts to find a cure for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. That tradition continued Thursday night, when the ALS Association's Greater New York Chapter hosted its 24th annual iteration of the event at the Marriot Marquis in Manhattan.
New York Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay, Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez and the Laurence Gluck Charitable Foundation were among those honored at the dinner, which raised nearly $1 million to fund ALS research. There is no known cure for the disease, and more than 6,400 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it each year.
Public awareness for ALS has peaked in recent years, though, nearly eight decades since Gehrig's famous "Luckiest Man" speech. Gehrig first brought ALS into the public eye in 1939, when he was diagnosed at the age of 36. He died two years later. Major breakthroughs in research have been achieved over the last few years after Ice Bucket Challenge videos became a viral phenomenon in 2014.
"The amount of awareness that's been generated over the last few years, in this post Ice Bucket world that we're living in now, is incredible," said Kristen Cocoman, the president and CEO of ALS Association's New York chapter. "It's really hard to put it into any kind of words or a numeric scale, the kind of awareness that's been generated."
Attendees included Yankees broadcaster David Cone, former New York Giants Ottis Anderson and Stephen Baker, former heavyweight boxer Gerry Cooney, former Yankees outfielder Roy White and current New York Giants Evan Engram and Wayne Gallman. In recent years, the foundation has honored the likes of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Yankees GM Brian Cashman, former Mets manager Terry Collins, Matt Harvey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jorge Posada, Paul O'Neill and Alex Rodriguez.
This year, the night's highest honor was given to the Laurence Gluck Charitable Foundation. Founded by New York real estate developer Laurence Gluck, the LGCF concentrates on issues that hit close to home, supporting various medical initiatives, education programs and cultural organizations. For its efforts, the LGCF was presented the Jacob K. Javits Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor Manfred received in 2017.
ESPN's Jeremy Schapp emceed the event, and Rodriguez attended at the invitation of former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, co-chairman of the ALS Association's Greater New York Chapter.
"We have to continue the fight [against ALS]," Rodriguez said.
Kay, the Emmy Award-winning broadcaster and radio host, knows the powers of Gehrig's legacy as well as anyone. He has been the television voice of the Yankees since 2002 and hosts the YES Network's award-winning Centerstage program as well as the Michael Kay Show, which is simulcast on YES and WEPN-FM in New York City. Kay has been a member of the Yankees organization since 1992.
"I am almost feel embarrassed accepting this award, when those who deal with this incredibly difficult situation, both patients and caretakers, are the people who should be honored," Kay said. "We need to continue to fight, to continue to push for research, continue to ask the government to fund such research and never accept that this is something that can't be cured. Hopefully we are getting closer every day."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.