BALTIMORE (AP) — Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance will take his personal fight against ALS to the baseball diamond on the 77th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's farewell speech at Yankee Stadium.
Brigance has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Soon after Brigance was diagnosed in 2007, he and his wife, Chanda, launched a campaign to help other people with ALS.
Gehrig died two years after declaring himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth" in his 1939 speech. Brigance will honor the former Yankees first baseman by participating in the traditional first-pitch ceremony Monday night at the home of the Class A Aberdeen IronBirds.
"Lou Gehrig's words still echo loudly the courage, humility and tenacity that he displayed on the baseball field, as well as in his fight against ALS," Brigance said. "His ability to stand unflappable in the face of his toughest opponent ever serves as an inspiration to me, and I am sure to many others in the ALS community. I, too, am one of the most blessed men on the earth."
Brigance is the only player to win a Canadian Football League title and a Super Bowl for a team in the same city, Baltimore. He was a special teams contributor for the Ravens in 2000, when the squad earned a wild-card berth in the playoffs and went on to beat the New York Giants to become NFL champions.
He now serves in the front office for the Ravens. Brigance, who uses a wheelchair and a communication device that translates his thoughts, is an inspiring figure within the organization and to many battling ALS.
The Brigance Brigade Foundation has raised millions of dollars toward providing encouragement and equipment to people living with ALS. Some of the money is also used to find a cure.
"The ALS community has come a long way since Lou Gehrig's speech at Yankee Stadium," Chanda Brigance said, "but there is still so far to go."