The Philadelphia Phillies bill their annual “Phillies Phestival” as a “fun-filled autograph and auction party for all ages”, and this year’s event will take place this evening at Citizens Bank Park on what is an open date in the Phils MLB schedule.
The goal of the Phestival is to raise funds to help battle the devastating, deadly, incurable neuromuscular condition of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) known in the colloquial as Lou Gehrig‘s Disease.
The latter designation comes from the New York Yankees legendary Hall of Fame 1st baseman Lou Gehrig, whose career and life were very publicly and tragically cut short by the disease back in 1941.
From June 1st, 1925 through April 20th, 1939, Gehrig appeared in a record 2,130 consecutive games, a record that would stand for more than five decades until broken by Cal Ripken Jr.
But during the 1938 season, Gehrig began to sense that something was wrong. By the start of the 1939 season, it was obvious to him and everyone else as his performance and physical condition began to seriously deteriorate.
At the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, he was officially diagnosed with ALS on June 19th of that year, his 36th birthday.
On June 2nd, 1941, Lou Gehrig died due to complications from the disease. It was less than two years after his retirement from baseball. He was just 37 years old.
Today as the Phils battle the disease, it will ironically mark the 90th anniversary of the start of Gehrig’s famed streak.
ALS involves the death of neurons in the body, and is characterized by gradually worsening weakness due to muscle wasting, stiff muscles, and muscle twitching.
The muscle deterioration eventually makes basic human abilities such as speaking, eating, and then ultimately even breathing difficult and finally impossible.
The Phillies began to get formally involved in the battle against ALS with numerous activities dating all the way back to 1984.
In those ensuing 3+ decades, the club and it’s fans have raised more than $15 million for research and patient services at the Philadelphia chapter of The ALS Association.
Last year’s event was held on May 19th, with more than 7,000 fans showing up to enjoy the festivities and contribute in various ways to the charitable endeavor.
Those included autograph stations manned by players such as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, manager Ryne Sandberg, and more players, coaches, and prospects.
As with last year’s event, which raised more than $900,000 for ALS, those autograph stations will return again.
Fans will get the opportunity to shake hands, obtain autographs, and take quick selfies with their favorites.
There will also be numerous games, training sessions, a silent auction, and other events. And to satisfy hunger, a number of the popular food stands will be open.
The Phillies return to action with home series this week against the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants, kicking off with a 7:05pm scheduled game on Tuesday night against those Reds.