Matt’s First Speech


Chicago Fundraiser 9/19/2001 

I’d like to thank everyone for coming. I’d like to particularly thank Cliff Mazzone, Jennifer Welch, and Fran Fields for putting this all together.  The only word I can think of describe my feelings right now is humbled. I’d like to talk a little bit about Lou Gehrig.  Most of you know him as a great baseball player.  You probably don’t know how good he really was.  Lou Gehrig may have been the best baseball player ever.   Lou Gehrig was born June 19, 1903.  He attendedcolumbia
University on a baseball and football scholarship but lost his eligibility when he was caught playing summer professional baseball.  After a brief minor league stint in Hartford, he joined the major league
new york yankees for the 1925 season. 

 He played first base and batted fourth behind Babe Ruth.  Gehrig was several things as a baseball player, the iron horse who would never miss a game for almost 14 seasons, 2130 consecutive games, the yankees team captain for many years, a quiet unassuming producer who excelled in the shadow of ruth and dimaggio.   He was also an offensive a machine- -averaged over .300 for twelve straight seasons 

-averaged .361 in 34 World Series games -hit a record 23 grand slams in his career -averaged 147 RBIs for 13 seasons.  No one had that many RBIs in a single season until 1974.  Gehrig averaged 147.  -won the home run title three times 

-won the triple Crown in 1934 with the highest batting average, most home runs, and most RBIs. -led the Yankees to seven World Series championships in his 14 year career -won the league MVP in 1927 and in 1936 -was elected to the baseball hall of fame immediately after he retiredWhat a record- Lou Gehrig was THE PRODUCER for arguably the best teams ever in baseball.  He produced for 13 seasons, from 1925 to 1937.1938 was the first and only year that Lou Gehrig’s batting average dropped below 300.   

It was clear that something was wrong, lou gehrig was getting weaker.  -Home runs became fly outs -sharp ground balls became dribblers-pitchers could now throw the ball past gehrig.   Doctors diagnosed a gall bladder problem and put him on a bland diet- which made him even weaker.  He went through spring training and started at first base for the first 8 games of the yankees 1939 season.   Following the first inning of the seasons 8th game, Gehrig removed himself from the game.  This after some teammates congratulated him for stumbling into a Successful put out at first.  

The date was may 9 1939- game #2130, and his last. by june 19 of that year lou gehrig knew what was wrong- he stood outside the mayo clinic with an envelope that detailed his diagnosis- amyotrophic lateral sclerosios.   A vey rare neuromuscular disease for which there was no cause, no treatment, and no cure.  The report finished with the conclusion that-– “mr. Gerhig will be unable to continue his active participation as a baseball player.”Just 2 weeks later, july 4 1939, lou gehrig day had been planned and organized.  he walked to the microphone in front of 60,000 in yankee stadium to give his famous speech.  I won’t read it all, I’ll just give you the highlights- “fans, for the past two weeks, you have been reading about the bad break I got.  Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  I have been in ballparks for 17 years, and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.  Look at these grand men.  Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career to associate with them for even one day?  Sure, I’m lucky.” 

He goes on to thank former coaches, teammates, and his family, and concludes with – “so I close in saying that I’ve had an awful tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for” Gehrig continued to do work for the yankees and the city of
new york for as long as he could walk.  Less than 2 years later, on june 2, 1941, at age 37- lou gehrig died at his home in riverdale
new york.
 Pretty scary- 60 years ago, one of history’s greatest athlete’s is struck down within 2 years of learning he has a rare neuromuscular disease. 

when i found out almost two years ago what was wrong with me, my absolute first reaction was--all right, great, so now we know what’s wrong- – what do we do about it?   of course, we are at the start of a new millennium- -we split atoms sixty years ago-putting men on the moon is so easy we don’t even bother to do it anymore.  -major diseases like aids and various forms of cancer, while not curable are at least imminently treatable   ok, so what are we talking here- pills, shots, treatments, surgery, rehab.  how long will i have to be off the golf course? sorry matt- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, als, lou gehrigs disease has -no cure-there is no known treatment that will prolong your life-we can’t figure out how or why you have this disease-and there’s an eighty percent chance that it will be fatal for you within four years.  

WHAT?  Come on guys- lou gehrig died in 1941, are you telling me you can’t do anything more for me than you did for him?

on the ride home and in the days and weeks that followed i determined that it would be a shame if i did not use this time to utilize gods gifts. it would be a shame to not accomplish some things- -walk more closely with god-do special  unforgettable things with people that i love-use my life relationships as a way to raise awaerenes, raise, money and move closer to a cure or treatment for als.  tonight we begin to accomplish that. 

In the days and weeks that followed, I’ve also learned in some ways that I inspire people.  Wow-  all of a sudden, I’m inspiring those people who have inspired me.   People who have shown me how to use gods gifts and enjoy them-  -to focus on the good not the bad-to set high goals and work hard to achieve them-to want more but not dwell on what i don’t have-to live life with courage-to look for things that bring me joy and enjoy them.   These are all things that I’ve learned from the people that inspire me.   

Now,  by continuing to live my life the same way, and with the same attitude that I’ve always lived it- I’m giving something back.   to give something back, to inspire those who have inspired me – the people in my life who have made me who I am today.    i am the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Everyone will take away something different from their relationship with me.  There’s my satisfaction.   I’ve never asked, why me.  That’s just so selfish.   It’s not why me, but to what end.   

To what end.  

Gods grand design includes pain and suffering.  Sure, there are varying degrees--everything from the loss of 6000 lives in a single terrorist attack-my contracting ALS -having a flat tire in a rainstorm-to something as insignificant as having a shitty rating book  This pain and suffering is only so that you can have a greater appreciation for the good things that happen in your life.  How can there ever exist good things- -joy-courage-pleasure-sharing-love-friendshipif there is no platform of bad things from which to appreciate it?    If you leave here tonight feeling just a little bit more appreciative of all the good things that you’ve got, of all the good things that have and will happen to you- my end has been served.  Don’t feel guilty about it- just feel appreciative, or what’s happening to me is truly wasted.   It’s not why me but to what end.  My end is this-   I’ve been given the gifts of -time to be closer to god-to experience once in a lifetime things-to raise money to find a cure for a horrible disease-and to inspire those who inspired me. I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth. 

Thanks for coming, and I hope you all have a great time tonight.


2 Responses to “Matt’s First Speech”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    You are an inspiration! It is wonderful that you can see God’s plan for you. Many people never recognize the gifts God gives let alone appreciate them.

  2. Phil Tyndall Says:

    Matt and Shartrina, As I sit here with moist eyes I want to thank the two of you for being such a wonderful inspiration to those of us fortunate enough to get to know you. I have followed your life and career through your equally inspirational Uncle Marv with whom I was privileged to practice for nearly 30 years and your parents Howard and Connie through whom I was kept abreast of your high school accomplishments, your Butler career and your rise in the Emmis group. Uncle Marv shared with me how you learned about your ALS diagnosis and I was amazed at your continued determination to live as normal a life as humanly possible assisted by your loving wife Shartrina. Impressed by your fishing exploits, the loyalty of yor friends and associates, your indominable spirit, you dedicated Christian example and your philosophy of “to what end”. I was thrilled to see your Butler Final four experience and by your eloquent talk with the Butler “family’. I remain in awe and thankfulness for your continued inspiration. God Bless you! Phil

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