LOS ANGELES -- Major League Baseball is teaming up with entertainers, foundations, businesses, physicians and three of the top four television networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- in the quest to find a cure for cancer. The new initiative, called "Stand Up To Cancer," was introduced on Wednesday morning on all three networks by news anchors Charles Gibson, Katie Couric and Brian Williams and at press conferences at the Paley Centers for Media in both New York and Beverly Hills. MLB, which already promotes breast cancer and prostate cancer awareness, was the first donor to the new program and is providing an initial contribution of $10 million.
"I know there are other initiatives, but there's something so unique about this one," said Commissioner Bud Selig, a survivor of skin cancer, prior to the west coast media event. "I know in talking to doctors about this that they feel this money for research will really lead to a breakthrough in finding a cure. So I would tell you this morning that I feel this is a privilege. I don't regard it as a responsibility." Selig added that all 30 clubs are wildly in favor of the initiative and "would be supporting it in a big way" at ballpark events and promotions as the season goes on. "Stand Up To Cancer" will be highlighted by a nationally televised fund-raising event aimed at rallying the public around the goal of ending cancer's reign as a leading cause of death. The telethon will be simulcast commercial free on ABC, CBS and NBC on Sept. 5 from 8 to 9 p.m. ET. Tom Werner, the chairman of the Red Sox and a long-time Hollywood television producer, attended the event and noted that this is the first concerted effort to try and heighten the public's awareness about a disease that, in its various forms, kills more than half a million Americans a year and more than two million people worldwide. "This is something that was brought to our attention by an extraordinary group of creative people," Werner said in an interview. "The idea is to have a night when all three networks come together as one to talk about cancer. I think we are getting closer to several cures. This really is a commitment we need to have to push it one step closer. I believe this group is going to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. It's going to save lives. What else is there?" The telethon will feature live performances by legendary recording artists and appearances by stars from film, sports and television. In addition, network news anchors Gibson, Couric and Williams will report on potential life-saving research. "It's my job to make cancer entertaining," said Laura Ziskin, a breast cancer survivor who will produce the program. Wednesday's event was attended by numerous physicians, stars of movies and television like Dennis Quaid and Jimmy Smits, and other baseball owners: Frank and Jamie McCourt of the Dodgers and Arte Moreno of the Angels. Dennis Gilbert, an executive with the White Sox and a colon cancer survivor, was also in attendance. Selig said he was made aware of the initiative when he was in town this past January to attend Gilbert's annual dinner honoring baseball scouts. He recalled being approached about joining the cause and found the presentation enthralling. "Normally I'm very cautious and very deliberate," he said. "But then my wife, Susan, sitting next to me, said, 'Honey, we've got to do this. What are you waiting for?' So that was it. It was done." "Stand Up To Cancer," or SU2C, is a program devised by the non-profit Entertainment Industry Foundation. It was established by media, entertainment and philanthropic leaders who have borne the brunt of cancer in life-altering ways. The goal is to bring people, TV and the Internet together to generate uncommon awareness about the disease and various screening devices, which, if utilized early enough, can be life-saving. Frank McCourt, whose Dodgers initiated the "Think Cure" foundation to raise money for cancer research last year, said it was a no-brainer for MLB to be involved in this wider cause. "It's a fantastic partnership, a fantastic thing," he said. "Baseball is the ultimate family game and the ultimate family sport and has a way of bringing awareness to issues. And also we're bringing resources." "Stand Up To Cancer" was founded on the principal that there is sufficient knowledge of basic cancer science and that technologies are now available to translate this knowledge into real advances in treatment and prevention. Scientists now know how cancer begins, progresses and spreads. Those scientists are on the verge of life-saving discoveries but desperately need funds, which are slowly diminishing in grants from the federal government. The initiative is dedicated to generate that private funding. Two other important components of the initiative are a Web site -- Standup2cancer.org - which is being used as both a tool for fund raising and to develop an online community for those who are affected by cancer, and a series of televised Public Service Announcements featuring celebrities and members of the general public to mobilize support for the campaign. The PSAs will appear on TV and in movie theaters throughout the summer and will be supported by a print component in newspapers and magazines. The Web site will remain in full force to act as a fund-raising platform long after the Sept. 5 telethon has been aired. "This is great," Moreno said. "The Commissioner really likes to be involved in the community and what better way to be involved in the community than with this?" Aside from MLB, many other organizations have joined the fight, including AARP, Alliance for Global Good, AOL, Conde Nast Media Group, Def Jam Recordings, Lee Jeans, The Paley Center for Media, Philips, PlayPhone, Revlon, Ronald Perelman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Stonyfield Farm and Steve Tisch, Hearst Magazines, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Time Inc. Cancer advocacy and support groups collaborating with "Stand Up To Cancer" include: The Lance Armstrong Foundation, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Breastcancer.org, C-Change, CancerCare, Colon Cancer Alliance, Friends of Cancer Research, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, National Breast Cancer Coalition, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, The Prostate Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, The Wellness Community and others. MLB already teams with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and The Prostate Cancer Foundation in their fights against breast cancer and prostate cancer. Since 1997, MLB has raised $28 million for prostate cancer research through its annual Home Run Challenge. Selig said that his own fight with melanoma several years ago gives him a personal stake in baseball's commitment. "I've thought a lot about it," he said. "A doctor had just pronounced me fit and then I was told that I had the melanoma. I remember that first weekend after that and it was really traumatic. But the research that has been done on the disease has been so helpful to me. We've made so much progress against cancer, but there's so much more to be done. So this is exciting, very exciting."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.