Pete Frates’ battle against ALS now a part of Hall of Fame history
Today, symbols of that event – and the ballplayer who propelled a global philanthropic phenomenon – are on exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, including a cap and glove from his playing days at Boston College and the ice bucket and sunglasses he used at Fenway Park in 2014.
In 2012, Frates was diagnosed with ALS. He had helped popularize the Ice Bucket Challenge on social media earlier in 2014, but this was his first time doing the challenge. Partaking in an event that he helped sweep the nation that summer – and to do it at Fenway Park – was a dream for the lifelong baseball fan and player.
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“We’re a baseball family. Baseball has always been our sport. Our entire lives revolve around it,” Pete’s father John Frates said.
Since 1939, baseball and ALS have been connected in history. Gehrig was forced to retire from baseball when he was just 37 due to ALS, passing away two years later. Another Hall of Famer, Catfish Hunter, also died of the disease in 1999. Frates had to step away from the game of baseball when he learned of his diagnosis, but the game never left him.
“Pete reminds me time and time again that he is a baseball player. This sport is his escape,” John Frates said. “Baseball is now his therapy.”
Born into a family faithful to the Red Sox, Frates grew up with an immense love for baseball and eventually played professionally in Germany. Once he was diagnosed, the baseball world poured out support for him.
“There’s so much love from the baseball community. We hear frequently from the Commissioner, and of course there’s the special relationship with the Red Sox. Colleges have embraced our banding together wristbands, and we’ve even gotten support from high school teams and little leagues around the country,” John Frates said.
Frates’ dedication to ALS research has woven him into baseball’s fabric forever. As such, the Hall of Fame recently asked to tell the story through artifacts – and Frates generously donated a glove and cap from his playing days at Boston College, along with the bucket used to douse him with ice water at Fenway Park, and the sunglasses he wore for the event.
“We decided to reach out to see if we could help tell Pete’s story. Our institution is designed to talk about the National Pastime. This is part of our National Pastime.” Museum Curator Tom Shieber said.
The love baseball fans and teams have shown Frates was also seen at Gehrig’s speech in 1939, where Gehrig received an outpouring of support from not only Yankee fans, but also from the entire country. Leaning on the game for support is now a common occurrence for the Frates family.
“Baseball owns this disease,” John Frates said. “ALS and baseball are forever intertwined. When the cure comes, it’ll be because of baseball and Pete Frates.”
Cady Lowery is the 2017 public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum