Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Baseball Great Throws Support To Ford

It was too good an offer to refuse, and Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) didn’t waste any time accepting it.

It was from former baseball pitching star Tommy John, who told Ford that he would campaign for his Senate bid if he’d agree to co-sponsor legislation to create a national registry for victims of the ailment known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“You don’t even need to tell me what’s in the bill,” Ford told him. “The answer is yes.”

John, whose 288 career wins over a 26-year career makes him a prime candidate for baseball’s Hall of Fame, joined several hundred members of the ALS Association, all wearing “Strike Out ALS” buttons, in lobbying members of Congress last week for federal support of research on the disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

John, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., became involved in the cause when fellow major-league pitcher Catfish Hunter was stricken with ALS, an invariably fatal neurological disorder that afflicts more than 70,000 Americans.

“It just killed me to see him wither away,” said John, who paid visits to a half-dozen members, including Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) and Sue Myrick (R-N.C.).

Coincidentally, like Gehrig, the 63-year-old left-handed pitcher’s name is also forever linked to a medical problem. In 1974, as he was having one of his best seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers, John tore a ligament in his pitching arm. That unique reconstructive operation that prolonged his career for 15 more years is now known as Tommy John surgery.

In their impromptu meeting just off the House floor, John promised Ford that he’ll come to Tennessee to stump for him.

Source: The Hill