Lou Gehrig’s Disease

In July of 1939, after nine years of fruitless treatment, multiple sclerosis sufferer Bess Bell Neely took a chance and wrote to baseball legend Lou Gehrig in the hope that he may be able to help. Gehrig himself had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis the previous month following a visible decline in his health for the best part of a year, and on July 2nd he had no choice but to retire from the Yankees. Just two weeks later, he replied to Neely with the following encouraging letter.

Despite the early signs of improvement at Mayo Clinic, Gehrig passed away less than two years later, aged just 37. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is now known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease by many.

Transcript follows.




Dear Mrs. Neely-

It is with deep regret that I read of your condition, sclerosis. However, the condition in which I am afflicted may differ from the way you are infected, so if I told you of my treatments I might be hurting you instead of helping.

I cannot too strongly urge you to visit Mayo Clinic as soon as you see your way clear. You may feel that you cannot afford it but I can assure you they are the most reasonable institution imaginable – and I’m sure they will find out in short order what will prevent growing worse each year. I too was doctoring with no success, and in less than a month I definitely feel they have checked it for me. I have gained about 8 pounds in the last 3 weeks since my return.

A visit now may seem very expensive, but in the long run I believe you will agree it was the cheapest.

May I wish you every success and a quick recovery.


Lou Gehrig.