Four times he led the American League in home run hitting. In 1938, he
blasted 58 - no player had hit more in a season up to that point in time
except for Babe Ruth. He starred in the majors for more than a decade and
batted .313 for his career.
four and a half years to serve in WWII. He closed out his career in 1947
as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He blasted 25 home runs that
season, most of them into a section of the outfield known as
"Greenberg Gardens." In 1956, he was elected to the Baseball
Hall of Fame. He passed away 30 years later.
name was Henry Benjamin Greenberg, but he was better known as Hank
Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," a documentary film by Aviva
Kempner is a loving and beautifully done tribute to a great player and
goes into an in depth treatment about all he had to overcome to prevail.
film opens with Mandy Patinkin singing a Yiddish rendition of "Take
Me Out to the Ballgame" while street scenes of young boys playing
baseball in the Bronx in the 1930s enter the screen. The son of Romanian
immigrants, Greenberg grew up Jewish in the Bronx and went on to star at
James Monroe High School.
began his major league career in Detroit in the mid 1930s - it was a city
that had well known anti Semites such as automaker Henry Ford and Father
Coughlin, the latter dished out hatred from his pulpit.
Greenberg at six-foot-four with broad shoulders and big muscles feared no
bigot, never backed away - whether it was from a spring training fight on
a bus with Detroit pitcher Rip Sewell or an entire Chicago White Sox team.
was a game in Chicago when Sox players went after Greenberg with religious
epithets way beyond the normal. When the game ended, a seething Greenberg
went into their clubhouse ready to do battle. He told the White Sox
players, "If you got a gut in your body you'll stand up." Of
course, nobody did.
often acknowledged the insults. "It was a constant thing," he
said in an interview shown in the film. "I think it was a spur for me
to do better. Not only were you a bum; you were a Jewish bum."
was the man Jews looked up to because he was "what most of them could
never be," in attorney Alan Dershowitz's phrase. Jews were in
sporting goods, not sports.
1937, Greenberg drove in 183 runs, one short of Lou Gehrig's American
League record. The next year, he hit 58 home runs - he had that number
with five games remaining. As the story goes, the word was out not to let
a Jew break Babe Ruth's record of 60. Walks and pitches delivered with a
high level of difficulty to become homers were the order of the day.
wasn't bitter at all," Greenberg says in the documentary.
1934 with the Tigers caught up in a battle for first place with the
Yankees, Greenberg did not play one game. He observed the Jewish Holy Day
of Yom Kippur. The film relates how when the big slugger entered the
synagogue, a fan said, "My God, nobody ever saw a Jew that big."
The congregation gave Greenberg a standing ovation.
standing ovation is also due Aviva Kempner who devoted the past 12 years
to complete this compelling and winning documentary - a film she wrote and
# # #
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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