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Lou Gehrig's Heartbreaking Letter of Optimism

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On June 19, 1939, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota diagnosed Lou Gehrig with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It was the beloved Yankees first baseman's 36th birthday. The prognosis was unequivocal: a rapid decline and a life expectancy of just three more years.

Gehrig didn't make it that long, succumbing to the disease that would eventually bear his name on June 2, 1941. But during those final two years of his life, Gehrig felt, at least once, glimmers of optimism and even hope that maybe the inevitable would not come to pass.

"As for a report on my condition (and I hope it is not my imagination), I definitely feel that the Thiamin injections are working nothing short of miracles," Gehrig wrote in a September 13, 1939 letter to Dr. Paul O'Leary, his point of contact at the Mayo Clinic and close friend during his final stage of life. The letter, which is still in the possession of the O'Leary family, is currently being auctioned off by SCP Auctions, with just over a day remaining.


Images courtesy of SCP Auctions

The whole letter is worth a read, but there are certainly some highlights: "And before I go any further," the opening paragraph says, "may I frankly assure you that I haven't even had ONE beer." The rueful sentiment is echoed in a later parenthetical, but most of the letter consists of a detailed account of how the minor physical tasks of day-to-day life have been eased by the medicine prescribed.

"I hope these indications are as encouraging as I feel they are," Gehrig concluded of the "exceptional decline of fibrillations" and increased motor skills.

The letter also contains pleasantries that show Gehrig's resilient good spirits and utmost gratitude to the Mayo Clinc. He arranged for Dr. and Mrs. O'Leary to attend the World Series—where Gehrig's Yankees would go on to sweep the Cincinnati Reds—as his personal guests, and even offers to procure tickets for some of the other doctors. Gehrig jokes that he "know[s] there will be trouble" as he intends to exclude Ruth O'Leary from his plans to take the Doctor down into the clubhouse.

The letter concludes with a series of convivial postscripts, including a claim that one Harry Geisel is a "swell guy even though he is an umpire," and Gehrig's own signature—one of his last.

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video
Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
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Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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History
The First High Five Recorded in the History of Sports
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We don’t quite know who invented the high five—but we can pinpoint the moment it became inextricably linked with sports, which the short documentary The High Five explores below.

On October 2, 1977, Los Angeles Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker scored his 30th home run, making the team the first in history to have four players—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers under each of their belts. Fellow outfielder Glenn Burke was so overwhelmed with joy and pride, he raised his arm and slapped his flat palm against the victorious athlete’s own palm. The moment transformed Baker and Burke into legends.

Sadly, the latter player faced hard times ahead: Burke was gay, and it’s believed that his sexuality prompted team officials to trade him to the Oakland A's the following year. In Oakland, Burke clashed with team manager Billy Martin, then retired early from baseball. Today, Burke is remembered for his charisma and talent—and for transforming a simple gesture into a universal symbol. “To think his energy and personality was the origin of that, that’s a pretty good legacy,” sportswriter Lyle Spencer says in the film.

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