Muhammad Ali at Yankee Stadium will be a "Lou Gehrig" moment

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Muhammad Ali by his friend Leroy Neiman

Before tonight’s Yankee-Red Sox contest, fans will be treated to an unexpected event – the Yankees will honor humanitarian and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Ali won a controversial decision against a powerful Ken Norton to defend his title in 1976, and given his recent illness, fans could be headed for a “Lou Gehrig moment.” Since retiring from boxing, Muhammad Ali has used his fame and recognition around the world to advance humanitarian efforts like very few people in history.

I have visited the Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville on several occasions and it is truly inspirational. He sacrificed his career because he believed in non-violence as a follower of Islam, and was unable to box for three years at the peak of his physical powers. The Ali Center documents the Civil Rights era, the anti-war movement and his primary role in both historic efforts. The irony of a “draft-dodger” appearing in red-state Yankee Stadium is probably not lost on many of us. Of course, Muhammad Ali is a patriot for refusing to go to Vietnam to fight for George Steinbrenner’s pal Richard Nixon.

It is, however, a corporate promotion: Ali’s visit was sponsored by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences which is giving Yankee Stadium an award (how about revoking their charter in response?). Hard to imagine the flag-waving Steinbrenner would honor the Greatest.

Angelina Jolie made a major contribution to the Ali Center in the form of a mosaic:

Brad Hockmeyer at the Muhammad Ali Museum
Brad Hockmeyer of KTAO, a solar powered station in Taos New Mexico at the Ali Center

One of the things that makes the Ali Center a great museum are the works of art by Ali’s friend Leroy Neiman. They spent a lot of time together, and Ali is a good artist himself. I saw Neiman on the street once and spoke to him about the museum and he said that Ali was a great subject, but I corrected him and said the art documents a great friendship too. You can bet Leroy will be there tonight too, he happened to be wearing a Yankee jacket when I ran into him and his distinctive mustache.

Muhammad Ali is still The Greatest! Wouldn’t it be nice (and good for her comeback) if Whitney appeared to sing the song from that bio-pic?

Muhammad Ali jokes with Michael Jackson

I hope the Yanks make mincemeat of those Boston bastards tonight in honor of the Champ.

“Find your greatness within!”

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