Fourth of July holds special place for Gardenhire

Fourth of July holds special place for Gardenhire

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Fourth of July will always have a special place in Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's heart.

Of course, it's Independence Day, but it's also Lou Gehrig's Day around baseball, as it's the 75th anniversary of his iconic "Luckiest Man" speech.

Major League Baseball is raising awareness and raising funds to combat ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) to honor Gehrig, who passed away from the disease on June 2, 1941, at the age of 37. MLB donated $300,000 to organizations that combat ALS, while a special video is being played in all ballparks featuring one first baseman from each club reciting a line from Gehrig's speech.

It hits close to home for Gardenhire, as Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach and former Twins great Kent Hrbek both lost their fathers to the disease.

"I've been a part of that since I first got to Minnesota with Hrbie and Steiny losing their fathers to this disease, so we've done a lot of fundraising for that with the Black Woods Blizzard Tour," Gardenhire said. "So I've learned a lot more about the disease and what it does to people. So we've tried what we can to end it, or at least help the people who have it. So this is a big day."

The Twins and Yankees also both wore special stars and stripes themed caps as part of the Independence Day festivities on Friday at Target Field. Gardenhire said it's one of his favorite days during the baseball season, as it also pays tribute to current and former members of the military.

"Celebrating the Fourth of July is a cool thing," Gardenhire said. "It's a big part of baseball. So you always think of all the servicemen and women serving this country, and my father was one of them. So there's a lot of meaning to this day."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.