Major League Baseball is dedicating Monday night's Game 5 of the 105th World Series to its ongoing 4♦ALS Awareness initiative as a tribute not only to Gehrig, but also to the lifelong baseball fan who inspired MLB to make everyone aware of the disease that claimed his own life on Sunday.
Michael Goldsmith died at age 58 after battling ALS for three years. He passed away in a hospice at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, where he had been living since early August, according to his surviving family. The cause of death was respiratory failure from ALS, which is a progressive disease that destroys the nerve cells controlling voluntary muscle movement.
As part of Major League Baseball's first-ever dedication of the World Series to community service, FOX and MLB Network will promote MLB.com/4ALS, which will provide fans the opportunity to donate money and link to "4♦ALS" organizations for more information. A public-address announcement will be made at Citizens Bank Park to inform and encourage fans to get involved.
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Michael Goldsmith," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "He helped us plan and arrange for ceremonies at all of our ballparks this past July 4 to raise awareness for ALS and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Gehrig's renowned farewell speech. On behalf of Major League Baseball, my condolences go out to his family and friends."
Goldsmith was honored at Yankee Stadium on July 4, the day that all MLB ballparks held "4ALS Awareness" events to get fans involved. Goldsmith, a New Yorker and law professor at Brigham Young University, stood near home plate that day and threw out the first pitch to Mark Teixeira.
Goldsmith spent the last three years of his life battling the same disease that struck Gehrig, baseball's "Iron Horse," in 1939. After he was diagnosed in 2006, Goldsmith attended a fantasy camp run by the Orioles -- the team he grew up supporting. In November 2008, he wrote a guest column in Newsweek that called on MLB to do more to fight the disease that ended Gehrig's life at the age of 37 on June 2, 1941.
"I now look to the game of my youth to help give me and others like me a chance for life," he wrote in that article.
Subsequent MLB efforts continue. MLB has been working with four leading organizations -- The ALS Association, ALS TDI, Augie's Quest (the Muscular Dystrophy Association's ALS research initiative) and Project A.L.S. -- whose primary goals are to find a cure for ALS.
The "4♦ALS Awareness" initiative logo was displayed frequently at home ballparks on July 4, from giant scoreboards to the bases to a logo on players' chests. Following the game, first base from each stadium was signed by players for MLB.com Auction bidding to raise additional funds for the participating organizations.
That same day at MLB and Minor League ballparks included players and celebrities reading Gehrig's famous "Luckiest Man" speech as a 70th anniversary tribute. People with ALS were introduced; public-service announcements recorded by former MLB players Curt Schilling and Nolan Ryan were played; and educational information was distributed.
"On July 4, more people received an introduction to ALS, what it is, what it does and what it means than on any day in the history of mankind," said Schilling, a longtime supporter of the fight against ALS, having raised more than $10 million through his "Curt's Pitch for ALS" program and other events.
Dorine Gordon, president and CEO of The ALS Association's Greater New York Chapter, described the initiative at Yankee Stadium as a "truly memorable experience," highlighted by Derek Jeter's reading of the Gehrig speech.
"It was very emotional for both the players and the fans, and it truly was a goosebumps moment," Gordon said.
Moments such as those were made possibly largely by Goldsmith.
"Being on the field with my father was the single greatest moment of my life," Austen Goldsmith told The New York Times on Sunday. "I think he was holding on for that."
Mr. Goldsmith's condition deteriorated, and in August, he was moved from Utah to be closer to his mother, Anitta Goldsmith, 80, who was born in Austria and moved to what was then called Palestine in 1939. Michael Goldsmith was born in Israel on March 5, 1951, and in 1955, the family moved to New York. He went to Cornell, and in 1975, was graduated from law school there. Goldsmith worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and later served as a counsel to the New York State Organized Crime Task Force.
Goldsmith continued to teach at Brigham Young after the ALS was diagnosed.
"I have spent more than two decades exhorting law students to take a proactive 'can do' approach to the law and life in general," Mr. Goldsmith wrote via e-mail in late June. "And I have tried to lead by example, showing them how creativity and commitment to a cause can produce positive results. The success of this effort demonstrates yet again how 'the power of one' can make a difference."
In the past few months, Goldsmith communicated with a mouse and synthesizer, using the last strength in his right hand.
Goldsmith is survived by his wife, Carolyn Goldsmith, and his two children from a previous marriage, Jillian Goldsmith and Austen Goldsmith, both of New York, as well as two sisters, Lynn Goldsmith and Edna Goldsmith, and their mother, Anitta Goldsmith of Albany.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.