web analytics
January 30, 2015 / 10 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


A Hero When Jews Desperately Needed One: An Interview with Hank Greenberg Biographer John Rosengren


John Rosengren

John Rosengren

Well, he’s this young man. He promised his parents he wouldn’t play and yet his team was in a pennant race against the Yankees and needed him. He was a very private man and it was a personal decision, yet it got thrust into the public spotlight. People around the country were sending him telegrams or letters with advice. Rabbis were telling him to play or not to play while the owner of the Detroit Tigers called him and said, “We really need you to get in there today.”

Hank Greenberg

Hank Greenberg

He ended up playing on Rosh Hashanah and hit two home runs, carrying the team to a 2-1 victory. But afterwards he went back to his hotel and received phone calls from people complaining about him playing and telegrams from rabbis saying this is going to make it hard for kids who want to observe their faith.

He was 23 years old, and that’s a lot of pressure to carry. He just wanted to be an American and to be able to do this thing that he was good at. Instead he became a Jewish ballplayer and representative of the Jews. He knew that was a big load to carry but he grew into it, came to accept it, and I think in the end did the Jewish people very proud as their standard- bearer.

Jews apparently were especially proud of his decision to quit baseball and enlist in the U.S. Army in 1941.

Greenberg was the first major leaguer to re-enlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked, even though he had just been honorably discharged two days earlier, on December 5. Jews took a special pride in his patriotism. He also really won over the admiration of all Americans for his willingness to set aside his personal career to fulfill his patriotic duty.

Greenberg was baseball’s best player at the time. He was the 1940 American League most valuable player, and he was the highest paid ballplayer in the game.

Nowadays, a great many parents encourage their children to pursue sports. Greenberg’s parents, though, did not. They wanted him to attain a college degree instead.

His parents came over trying to escape persecution and economic hardship in Europe. They came to America, the land of opportunity, wanting to have a better life for their children, and they saw college as the gateway for that. So they wanted Hank to go to college, become a professional, and have a good life. They saw baseball as a “bum’s game.” He was considered “Mrs. Greenberg’s disgrace” for playing baseball.

They didn’t understand the game. It’s like, “Why are all these grown men chasing this ball around a field?”

For some people, Greenberg is a Jewish baseball player. As someone who’s not Jewish, what attracted you to his story?

It was this story of an American hero, a cultural icon that attracted me. As an author, I’m always looking for stories of substance and social significance, and in Greenberg’s story I found that. He transformed the way that gentiles viewed Jews, and transformed the way Jews viewed themselves.

You’ve called Greenberg the greatest Jewish baseball player of all time. What about Sandy Koufax?

Sandy Koufax played once every four days. Hank Greenberg played every day. Also, Greenberg was consistently good throughout his career while Koufax had six years when he wasn’t very good.

You write in the book that 90-year-old Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner – who has been announcing New York Mets baseball games since the team’s founding in 1962 – was mentored by Greenberg in 1947. Can you elaborate?

When Greenberg arrived in Pittsburgh for his final season in 1947, one of the first things he did was befriend Kiner. Greenberg mentored him as a hitter and interceded on his behalf with management. Kiner, who had won the NL home run crown with 23 dingers the year before he met Hank, jacked 51 in ‘47 and won six more consecutive home run titles.

Late in Kiner’s career, when Greenberg was general manager of the Indians, he gave Kiner a spot on his team. Kiner remained forever grateful for Greenberg’s friendship. Thrice he asked Greenberg to be his best man. Hank finally [gave in] the third time, saying he didn’t want to jinx Kiner’s new marriage.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “A Hero When Jews Desperately Needed One: An Interview with Hank Greenberg Biographer John Rosengren

  1. Good talking to you, Elliot. Just to clarify, Greenberg did serve as Kiner's best man the first two marriages but when Kiner asked him a third time, Hank finally begged off, saying he didn't want to jinx another marriage.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jeremy Bird, working for Israeli campaign outfit V15, shown at Ted Talk, May 20, 2014.
V15 US Political Operative Marinated in Hate-Israel Activism
Latest Indepth Stories
Eli Weiss

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Eller-013015

His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.

IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Resnick-012315-Artist

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

You can’t say “Jewish French,” “Jewish British,” “Jewish Italian.” They are “French Jews,” “British Jews,” and “Italian Jews” – because they’re seen as Jews first and residents or citizens of their countries second.

Another thing they have been covering up is the nature of the building that was attacked. To this day people refer to it as a consulate or an embassy, but it wasn’t.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/a-hero-when-jews-desperately-needed-one-an-interview-with-hank-greenberg-biographer-john-rosengren/2013/05/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: