The "Priceless" public awareness spot, produced by SU2C founding member and award-winning Hollywood producer Laura Ziskin, became a breathtaking reality in the middle of the second inning. The giant video board in left instructed a full house of very eager, slightly waterlogged citizens to "STAND UP" -- and Ziskin said afterward that even she was not prepared for the amazing scene that happened on a Halloween Saturday night.
A crowd that included Vice President Joe Biden and his wife and Phillies fan, Dr. Jill Biden, gradually grew louder and louder during the live event, waving their white rally towels that they received upon entrance, increasingly seeming to sense the significance of what they all were doing. Ziskin watched it in a ballpark production truck along with Larry Flanagan, chief marketing officer of MasterCard Worldwide.
"It was absolutely extraordinary," said Ziskin, whose film credits include the Spider-Man trilogy, As Good As It Gets and Pretty Woman. "We proposed this to Larry, saying that 'Standing Up To Cancer: Priceless' had been a fantasy of the SU2C group, and he said yes. Then he said, 'But I'd like to do part of it live.' My heart was like in my throat. I said, 'OK, we're up to that, we'll do it.' And Major League Baseball, as always, was extraordinary. I just got 12 e-mails from people in L.A. who saw it and thought it was awesome."
"The thing that struck me the most was, we were there watching the commercials beforehand, and I could hear the crowd getting louder and louder and louder, just getting pumped up for it," Flanagan said. "And then it went live, and all of a sudden you're right in the moment. It's like right now, all this is happening. And that shot focusing on the children, and then pulling back with all of the folks SU2C has gotten to participate, and then pulling back to the whole stadium with the towels, the energy level going on at that point, you think about the impact it just made on millions of people, who just imprinted Stand Up To Cancer in a memory."
This marks the first World Series that is being played around a constant theme of community initiatives, all tied to MLB's "Going Beyond" campaign for community service and charitable involvement. Each of the first four games has an attached theme. Stand Up To Cancer was the focus of Game 3, with this live crowd event serving as an emphatic example of how MLB, SU2C, MasterCard and fans like you are making a difference in the ongoing effort to eradicate cancer in our lifetimes.
Game 1 was Welcome Back Veterans. Game 2 focused on Volunteerism and Community Service, as Derek Jeter won the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy. Game 4 will focus on youths and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).
"Major League Baseball has been a proud supporter of Stand Up To Cancer from its very beginning, driving home its key message with our fans -- that each and every person can play a role in helping the scientists who are working so hard to end this disease," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We're thankful to MasterCard for joining us in 'going beyond' to support this worthy cause, and encourage everyone to stand up with us and help eradicate cancer."
The event included participation by actors Terrence Howard and Minka Kelly, both of whom lost mothers to colon cancer, SU2C founding member Katie Couric, who lost a husband to colon cancer, and former Phillies star John Kruk, a survivor of testicular cancer. They encouraged the crowd and a global viewing audience to "stand up" to cancer.
Ziskin was holding her breath. She had been in a Hall of Fame Club suite along with the other leaders of the SU2C movement during the one-hour, 20-minute rain delay that held up the start of the game. Anticipation was palpable and so many thoughts raced through the mind. What if it was drizzling during the middle of the second inning and many fans were ducking for cover in the concourses rather than being at their seats? What if the game was called? What if the people just don't heed the message because they are too focused on baseball?
After having someone get her lucky Spider-Man cap, the last sheets of rain blasted through and the ballgame finally began. She headed down to the truck and only could hope it would go as she had wanted.
It was bigger, much bigger, and she found herself "weeping."
"The crazy thing is, you could ask the stadium full of people, you could say to 55,000 people, 'How many have been touched by cancer?' And every single hand would go up," Ziskin said. "So that's why I think everyone was willing to participate. We thank the Phillies and this incredible town. It's just a stunning town. This spot, of course now it's in the can. So now it will live on and have life and people can revisit it and we hope donate."
Ziskin works in a world of shoots, reshoots, postproduction and so forth. What you worry about, she said, was "Anything live. What Larry keyed on when he suggested we do the spot live, he said to us that one of the reasons baseball is so great, it's like the original reality show. Anything live, that feeling you don't know what's going to happen -- and I've done some Academy Awards and I've done the live Stand Up To Cancer show -- and it's an adrenalin rush. You go, 'I hope they do what they're supposed to do. I hope the camera's on.' Very different from making a film where you wait, you do it over again, you come back months later, you reshoot."
Ziskin is a six-year survivor of metastatic breast cancer. She wants something to happen. Now. And she is not alone, as everyone just saw so vividly.
"I've been dealing with breast cancer for six years. I feel fine," she said. "I'm on a trial, actually, I'm on a drug that is an experimental drug being studied by one of the teams that we fund, so I feel fortunate that way. I just believe we know so much about what makes cancer tick, we have to start applying what we know to make new therapies. The only way it's going to happen is for everyone who's touched by this disease, as patients we have to demand that the scientists, the government, everybody do better. It takes too big a toll and it's just going to get worse. So we have the knowledge, and we need to have the will."
Stand Up To Cancer has continually grown in visibility within MLB events, such as the Sheryl Crow All-Star Concert under the Arch last July in St. Louis. During that concert, Crow prompted a large crowd to raise their cell phones up and to text in unison as a pledge to "stand up" to cancer. During this postseason, MasterCard is donating $1,000 to SU2C for every home run hit, and entering Saturday's game the number of homers was 50. On SU2C's big night, the long balls were flying out, too.
There were two large "Hit It Here" signs positioned for Game 3, one in left-center and one in right-center. All someone had to do was hit one in this game, and MasterCard would donate $1 million more to SU2C. A longshot? Almost immediately after the "Priceless" live spot happened, Jayson Werth of the Phillies launched a home run that came pretty close to the one in left-center. Ziskin and Flanagan marveled at how close Werth had come, and then, incredibly, he came even closer later in the game with a monster blast that hit the Geico sign immediately to the left of that same sign in left-center. It seemed almost destined to happen.
In addition to the spot and the home run rooting, the cast members of the hit FOX TV show "Glee" wore SU2C shirts when they performed the Star-Spangled Banner before Game 3.
"The World Series is a major cultural touchstone," Ziskin said. "To be able to heighten awareness about the importance of supporting cutting-edge cancer research during it through one of the world's largest, most recognizable, and award-winning advertising campaigns is, in a word, priceless. We are enormously grateful to both MLB and MasterCard."
In support of MLB's expansion toward a community-themed World Series spectacle, MasterCard expanded its charitable relationship with SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation that raises funds for innovative research conducted primarily by teams of scientists, aimed at accelerating the development of new cancer treatments in order to save lives now. Lisa Paulsen, head of the EIF and a SU2C founding member, was here for the event as well.
In less than one year from its May 2008 launch, Stand Up To Cancer raised more than $100 million -- including a lead $10 million donation from MLB -- due in part to an historic hour-long program simultaneously broadcast on three major television networks on Sept. 5, 2008. On its one-year anniversary in May 2009, SU2C announced $73.6 million in three-year grants to its first five Dream Team collaborations, comprised of more than 200 researchers from over 20 leading institutions.
Stand Up To Cancer's next round of funding, "high risk/potentially high reward" Innovative Research Grants for individual investigators (often not funded by conventional sources) will be announced soon. Philadelphia-based American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is Stand Up To Cancer's partner, and is responsible for administering the grants, including distributing the funds to the institutions selected, developing methods of reporting and -- in conjunction with the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David H. Koch Institute at MIT -- providing scientific oversight.
MasterCard has been an official sponsor of Major League Baseball since 1997 and is the preferred card of MLB and MLB Advanced Media. MasterCard has a strong history of innovative and comprehensive marketing platforms with MLB and its clubs over the years, including the "MasterCard Presents Major League Baseball All-Century Team" in 1999, the "MasterCard Presents Major League Baseball Memorable Moments" in 2002 and the "Hit It Here" in-stadium promotion at MLB All-Star Week since 1999. MasterCard also maintains sponsorship alliances with 11 MLB clubs including six of the eight postseason contenders -- Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals.
"The 2009 MLB postseason has proven to be an extraordinary stage for MasterCard to stand up and support a cause that connects our employees, customers, cardholders and baseball fans across America," Flanagan said. "We're honored to share the power of 'Priceless' with the passionate and innovative approach that SU2C brings to fighting this disease.
"Stand Up To Cancer is such a special message. It was just the perfect opportunity. We started talking about it and ideas started flowing, and it was just one of those things: 'Gee, I've always wanted to do this.' The campaign is something that people all around the world have really embraced as a shorthand language and you see Priceless being used all over the place.
"I can't believe we just saw it. Just like that."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.