While the Yankees spend the weekend at Fenway Park chasing down the pennant, thousands of fans will be running throughout Yankee Stadium in search of a cure for Cancer.
On Sunday, August 7, Yankee Stadium will severe as host to the third annual Damon Runyon 5K, which is being held to support the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, a charitable organization that was founded in 1946 to help support the careers of promising young cancer researchers.
Thousands of runners are expected to take part in the five kilometer run, which will wind its way around the Stadium infrastructure before culminating in a victory around the field. Leading the pack will be former Yankee great Roy White, whose 233 career stolen bases rank fifth all-time in franchise history. Although the former outfielder won’t be showing off his speed, as an official race starter, his presence should provide some added inspiration to the runners.
The Damon Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium has only been held for three years, but the Yankees have had a long standing relationship with the organization, which was named for a classic American writer who began his career as a newspaperman covering baseball.
The series of 1936 may well be called the ‘series of too many heroes.’ It’s difficult to spot the outstanding star on a team where the man with the lowest batting average tied for driving in the second highest number of runs.” – Damon Runyon, October 8, 1936, writing about that year’s World Series
After Runyon died of throat cancer in 1946, the foundation was started, and several figures from the sports world were attracted to the cause. In particular, Joe DiMaggio, who sat on the organization’s board, was a champion of the foundation, and as a result, the Yankees regularly hosted events to help raise money for its activities.
In 1947, the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund was named one of the chief beneficiaries of the Mayor’s Trophy series between the Yankees and Giants, a relationship that persisted for several more years. In addition to participating in and helping to organize a variety of fundraisers to support the organization, DiMaggio also frequently made personal donations to the Damon Runyon fund. In fact, the notoriously frugal star donated over $7,000 worth of cash gifts given to him on “Joe DiMaggio Day”, which was held on the last day of the 1949 season. It was on that day that the great DiMaggio made the now heralded remark, “I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee”, and then as encore, the team beat the Red Sox 5-3 to win the American League pennant.
In addition to DiMaggio, the Damon Runyon fund was also supported by other legendary sports figures, including middle weight champion Sugar Ray Robinson, who was known to be a bitter negotiator when it came time to divvy up the gate. On several occasions, however, Robinson turned over his entire purse to the fund, which over the years amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars to the charity’s coffers.
DiMaggio and Robinson would be happy to know their earlier efforts continue to be matched to this day. Last year’s Damon Runyon 5K raised more than $400,000, and this year’s event could bring in even more. The Yankees may not win at Fenway Park on Sunday night, but during the day, the Bronx will be host to a real victory party.