07/15/2003 2:37 PM ET
Piniella, Ozzie team up vs. cancer
Stars 'Take a Swing' against prevalent disease
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball and the National Prostate Cancer Coalition (NPCC) have joined forces to increase awareness among men to the dangers of prostate cancer. And MLB.com is aiding in the education process.
The forces teamed up Tuesday to launch a major campaign called, "Take a Swing Against Prostate Cancer," and starting next Monday, fans will be able to analyze their own risk factors by taking part in a contest via MLB.com that will run every week for the remainder of the season.
Fans can vote for the MLB Manager's Move of the Week after viewing three short video clips of moves MLB managers made the previous week that enhanced his team's chances of winning a game. The manager selected that week by the fans will have $1,000 donated in his name to the local prostate awareness chapter. And the fans will get a chance to win either two tickets to a World Series game this October or a baseball signed by Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella.
Though neither has had the disease, Piniella, along with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, are co-spokesmen for the campaign. In recent years, Yankees manager Joe Torre and Cubs manager Dusty Baker have survived prostate cancer.
"It's an area that has touched home with me through my colleagues many times," said Piniella at a media conference Tuesday morning only hours before the All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field. "They've made me aware of it. Now I'm very happy and proud to make other people aware of it. Like Ozzie, we'll reiterate it over and over again. It's a message that we'll be preaching throughout the summer and into the fall."
Piniella will be 60 years old in August, 10 years beyond one of the three major risk factors for prostate cancer that confront men as they grow older. Dr. Richard Atkins, president and chief executive of the NPCC, said men falling under any one of three categories are at higher risk to develop a disease that is estimated to kill 28,900 men this year in the U.S. alone. Almost 210,000 American men are projected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003.
The three factors are:
Men age 50 or older.
African-American men have twice the risk.
A family history of prostate cancer.
"There may be no warning signs or symptoms of prostate cancer," Atkins said. "That means that a critical first step to maintaining a healthy prostate is knowing that some men are at greater risk because of age, family history or race."
For men, prostate cancer is the second most dangerous form of the disease behind lung cancer, Atkins said. But the good news is, it can be successfully treated if caught early enough. Torre and Baker, for instance, both returned to active duty as managers after undergoing prostate cancer surgery. The cancer was detected during routine physical examinations.
The NPCC, formed in 1996, is the only non-profit national prostate cancer organization that actively lobbies the U.S. federal government to fund prostate cancer research, Atkins said.
Fans taking part in MLB Manager's Move of the Week contest will be directed to a page on the MLB.com site to view the three top moves and then cast their vote. After that, they will be asked to register and address the three prostate cancer risk factors to be eligible to win the World Series tickets.
"To hammer home the message, as they say about real estate, the first thing you need to be concerned about is location, location and location," Atkins said. "In prostate cancer the first thing you need to be concerned about is risk, risk and risk."
Smith, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer after a record-setting 19-year career with the Padres and Cardinals, will make four stops this summer to promote the campaign around the Major League Baseball circuit. He'll throw out the first ball prior to games in Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and Arlington. Piniella is scheduled to throw out the first ball before Tuesday night's All-Star Game.
"Because I'm an African-American man, risks are twice as high," said Smith, now 48. "I have one brother who is older and I think we've all had people close to us who at one time have come down with prostate cancer and had to deal with it. I'm here as part of this whole program to make people aware about how important it is to get checked."
To help energize the "Take a Swing Against Prostate Cancer" campaign, there will be an auction Wednesday of signed All-Star commemorative merchandise on MLB.com with all proceeds going to the NPCC. Another online auction will be held in September, which is National Prostate Cancer Awareness month.
Be sure to return to MLB.com on Monday to vote for the Manager's Move of the Week and have a chance to win tickets to the 2003 World Series. The contest will run each week from Monday to Wednesday.
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.