Aiming to strike out breast cancer

Aiming to strike out breast cancer

Major League Baseball partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Mother's Day 2005, and asked fans to pledge a donation for every strikeout recorded in games over a one-week stretch. There were 1,362 strikeouts then, and that number multiplied by the pledge total went to the fight against breast cancer.

Now the Strikeout Challenge is back, starting on May 7 and culminating with special Mother's Day programs at each scheduled ballpark on May 14. The Komen Foundation will receive 100 percent of all pledges, helping to fund cutting-edge research and breast cancer outreach programs across the country.

Think for a moment about the possibilities here. Let's say there are 1,362 strikeouts again during this year's stretch. If one million fans each pledged only a penny per K, that would mean $14,120,000 (including a $50,000 commitment from MLB Charities) for the Komen cause. A record 74 million fans attended Major League games last season, and millions of fans are on and the 30 club sites every day and night. The people are here, the problem is still here, and people solve problems.

"Major League Baseball is a social institution with a responsibility to give back in meaningful ways to our fans and to the communities in which our clubs play," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president, business. "Breast cancer affects many women and their families, which is why we are proud to work with our clubs, players and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to increase awareness and funding to fight this disease."

According to the Komen Foundation's Spring 2006 "Frontline" newsletter, the National Cancer Institute reports that breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women, except for certain skin cancers. In 2006, it is expected that 212,920 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. In addition to invasive breast cancer, 61,980 new cases of in situ (non-invasive) breast cancer will be diagnosed.

"It's always scary because when you talk about cancer, you talk about dying," Oakland outfielder Milton Bradley said last year when he was the Dodgers' Mother's Day representative. His mother, Charlena Rector, is a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed in September 2002 and is doing well today.

"It's something we need to make people aware of," Bradley said, "and make sure they get tested and treated early."

A woman's chance of developing breast cancer increases with age, according to the report. In the U.S., a woman has about a one in eight lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. About 40,970 women will die from the disease this year. Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. A woman's chance of dying from breast cancer is about one in 33, or 3 percent. However, it is encouraging that breast cancer death rates continue to decline, and that probably is the result of earlier detection and improved treatment.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer foundation was founded on a promise made between two sisters -- Susan Goodman Komen and Nancy Goodman Brinker. Suzy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978, a time when little was known about the disease and it was rarely discussed in public. Before she died at the age of 36, Suzy asked her sister to do everything possible to bring an end to breast cancer. Nancy kept her promise by establishing the Komen Foundation in 1982 in her sister's memory. More than 20 years later, the Komen Foundation is a global leader in the fight against breast cancer through its support of innovative research and community-based outreach programs.

"Growing up with my sister Suzy, one of the things our parents always stressed was that 'with perseverance and courage you can succeed at anything,'" Nancy Brinker writes in the latest Komen newsletter. "We've dedicated ourselves to a single mission -- eradicating breast cancer as a life-threatening disease once and for all. This has become our mantra, our battle cry and the defining mission of the Komen Foundation."

Now Major League Baseball and its fans are helping to put the "K" in "Komen" -- to raise awareness about breast cancer and the importance of early detection. Look for plenty of symbolic pink ribbons at the ballparks on Mother's Day, on uniforms and on the fields, and look for extra meaning on that two-strike pitch. Complete the pledge form here, then check back regularly during the week and see an update on the number of MLB strikeouts during this stretch, so you will know your donation total.

"Every day, we're closing in on the cure or cures," Brinker said. "And that gives women with breast cancer the most powerful weapon of all, hope."

Donations also may be sent to:

Susan G. Komen Foundation
5005 LBJ Freeway
Suite 250
Dallas, Texas 75244

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.