The first time the words “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis” appeared in The New York Times was in 1876, in an advertisement for a medical text; the disease had first been described by a French doctor in 1869. The Times did not mention it again until Arthur Daley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist, reported on Lou Gehrig’s diagnosis in June 1939.
The end of Gehrig’s record streak of 2,130 straight games came on May 2, but the explanation in The Times the next day was that Gehrig had “recognized his competitive decline” and that his withdrawal from the lineup “does not necessarily mean the end of his playing career.” A column by John Kieran the same day expressed certainty that “with a little rest he should begin to feel his oats again,” that all he really needed was “a breathing spell.”
On June 2, a 120-word article on the sports page reported that Gehrig would be examined at the Mayo Clinic…Finally on June 22, Daley, quoting Dr. H. C. Habein of the Mayo Clinic, wrote that the Iron Horse had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the first mention of the illness in the newspaper in 63 years.
NY Times by Nicholas Bakalar, 10/19/09