Horse Power by Tim Croce (Edited by George Barany)
"Midrash" by Steve Bachman (July 2014)


SB:  George and I met, through this website, just a few months ago. Under his tutelage, I've learned a lot about constructing crossword puzzles, and George has been kind enough to publish one of my efforts here (one or two more may appear soon).

I have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), "Lou Gehrig's disease," and so George asked if I might care to contribute to this puzzle's midrash. I enjoyed Tim's puzzle very much! It is a skillful memorialization of an all-time baseball great, and of the speech he made 75 years ago this month. This speech has been called one of the greatest in American history and "baseball's Gettysburg address." It is amazing for its courage and for the fact that it was largely extemporaneous. Gehrig did not plan to speak that day and had to be coaxed to the microphone by an adoring crowd and by his manager, Joe McCarthy. [Click here for a 3-min ESPN mini-documentary.]

Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS on June 19, 1939 on his 36th birthday and gave his famous speech just over two weeks later. He died less than two years after his diagnosis—seventeen days before his 38th birthday—on June 2, 1941. Three quarters of a century later, there still is no cure or effective treatment for the disease. Better care and technology have helped to extend life expectancies, but not by much. According to the ALSA, "life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis." I trust you will join me in the hope that someday, not just a disease, but a cure can be named for Lou Gehrig.

TC: I couldn't have said it better. My wife recently had to do an extensive research project for school on a particular medical condition—she chose ALS, and it opened my eyes quite a bit farther.

GB: My parents, Kate and Michael Bárány, devoted a significant portion of their research careers to the study of neuromuscular diseases. I grew up in New York City, and have always been a huge baseball fan.  The classic movie The Pride of the Yankees (1942) has always been a favorite, and not just for its baseball scenes [think of the son of immigrants with strong accents trying to assimilate, he falls awkwardly in love, etc., etc.].  The movie's theme music, Irving Berlin's Always, was also "the song" of my in-laws Sylvia and David Goldenberg. The movie's star, Gary Cooper, was unable to bat left-handed, so the director had him run to third base and flipped the film. It is Cooper's picture (along with Teresa Wright) that adorns our puzzle's main page. Click here for an essay comparing Gehrig's actual speech with the Hollywood version, and here for an iconic photo of Gehrig, the "Iron Horse" (hence the puzzle's title) along with his teammate the equally legendary Babe Ruth (who played himself in the film). Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played stood until September 6, 1995, when it was broken by Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.

I am so pleased that Tim Croce, a gifted constructor, stepped to the plate upon my invitation to create this remarkable tribute puzzle [we won't dwell here on the technical challenges he had to overcome, nor point out the numerous extra touches of wit and scholarship that he worked in—the pleasure of uncovering these we leave to you, the solver], and that Steve Bachman has contributed the inspirational midrash above [please read Steve's recent blogpost about ALS and the Lou Gehrig anniversary, and click here for direct access to a 1-min PSA from the ALSA that Steve linked to].

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