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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Babe Ruth’

Hank Greenberg’s 25th Yahrzeit

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

It was Hank Greenberg’s 25th yahrzeit recently and I said Kaddish for baseball’s biggest Jewish superstar.


 


Greenberg had children, but I doubt any said Kaddish, and if it was said, it more than likely wasn’t in an Orthodox shul.

 

If I hear otherwise, I’ll let you know.

 

I have vivid memories of Hank’s passing 25 years ago.I was working for the Detroit Tigers at the time and was in my Tiger Stadium office.

 

The newspapers called, looking for some quotes.I was the lone Jewish employee around and gave them some memories.Outside of seeing Greenberg in old films, I’d never seen him play; his last season as a player was 1947 and I only began to follow baseball a couple of years later.

 

My personal memories of Greenberg were forged in 1983, when I had the chance to talk to him prior to a doubleheader. The occasion was the retirement of Greenberg’s uniform number between games.I was on the field for the ceremony, covering the event as a photographer for a national publication and some upper management folks of the Tigers.

 

I taped our conversation. Here are some highlights:

 

COHEN: You grew up in the Bronx, not far from Yankee Stadium and not too
far from the Polo Grounds. Did you root for the Yankees or the Giants?

 

            GREENBERG: I was a Giants fan. Most of the kids were, because the Giants were the outstanding team at the time. But the Yankees were the first to scout me and they made the mistake of taking me to the ballpark to watch the team play and they gave me a seat right behind the Yankees dugout. Paul Krichell, who was then the head scout of the Yankees, showed me where Lou Gehrig was. I took one look at Gehrig and saw those shoulders and he looked like he was going to last forever.

 

Fortunately, the Detroit club was interested in me and Detroit, even back then, had a reputation of being a great baseball town. So I decided to cast my lot with the Tigers and it was a great ballpark for a right-handed hitter to hit in and it was a great baseball town.

 

COHEN: What was your parents’ reaction to your chosen occupation?

 

GREENBERG: Growing up in the Bronx with Jewish parents, they wanted me to be doctor or a dentist or a lawyer. I decided to be a ballplayer, which automatically characterized me as a bum. The neighbors used to say my parents had three nice children and one bum. But little did they realize that 40 years later the athletes [would be] the millionaires and the lawyers and the dentists and doctors are the working stiffs. I was just a little ahead of my time.

 

COHEN: Did the Giants have any interest in you?

 

GREENBERG: I tried to get a tryout with them and I was the all-scholastic first baseman for the entire city of New York but they said they saw me play and that I didn’t have a chance to make it in the big leagues. They wouldn’t even let me in the ballpark just to shag balls.

 

 


Irwin Cohen took this picture of Hank Greenberg at the

Tiger Stadium ceremony to retire Greenberg’s uniform number.

 

 

COHEN: In 1934 – your second season in the majors – you batted .339 and hit 26 home runs, helping lead the Tigers to the pennant. Was that your biggest thrill?

 

GREENBERG: I can’t say it was the biggest. We had a great infield that year. The Detroit infield played in every game except one. I played in every game except one. I played 153 games and everyone else [third baseman Marv Owen, shortstop Billy Rogell, second baseman Charlie Gehringer] played in all 154 games. And we drove in 462 [a record that still stands]. I guess the “Million Dollar Infield” of the old Philadelphia team didn’t even have half that much.

 

COHEN: You had some fantastic years. In 1937 for example, you hit 40 home runs and knocked in a staggering 183 runs while hitting .337. In 1938 you had 58 home runs. Were you disappointed you didn’t break Babe Ruth’s record?

 

GREENBERG: No. It wasn’t that much of a disappointment to me, as Babe Ruth was head and shoulders above everybody. I wasn’t in his class as a home run hitter.

 

 COHEN: You had five games to go and already had 58 home runs. What happened?

 

GREENBERG: Of the last five, two were in Detroit and three in Cleveland. The
last two – the doubleheader – they moved from old League Park to Municipal Stadium and it wasn’t very easy to hit a home run there because they didn’t have the enclosed fences in those days. You had to hit home runs into the seats.

 

Some Jewish fans still feel pitchers didn’t want a Jew to break Babe Ruth’s record.Greenberg disagreed.He felt many opposing players wanted him to break the single-season home run record, which at the time was 60.Greenberg went on to say that his 57th homer was a gift. He tried to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run andI was out by a mile at the plate but the umpire was a friend of mine and so was the catcher, who didn’t argue the call.”

 

            I can still hear Greenberg’s voice and his charismatic manner of speaking with a trace of the Bronx. Even though it’s 64 years since he played, he remains the biggest Jewish sports star of all time.


 


Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and earned a World Series ring. To read his illustrated biography on how he made it to the baseball field, send a check payable for $19.95 to Irwin Cohen, 25921 Stratford Place, Oak Park, Michigan, 48237. Cohen, the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Connecting To The Person In Need

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

    When a person goes through hard times words of encouragement can be a big lift. However, these well-intended words can backfire if they are seen as too unrealistic by the recipient and do not connect to what the person is going through.

 

    Often it’s the context of what’s being said. If a boy grows up having difficulty walking and needs a wheelchair to go more than 50 feet, it may not make him feel so good to hear that he’s going to make the little league baseball team in a month. It’s unrealistic, and it will only unnecessarily remind him of what he can’t do.

 

    However, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming of a brighter future, especially if you’re starting to make progress with some challenge you have. I was very moved when I was at the Baseball Hall of Fame to read a letter written by Babe Ruth to a young boy. By the context of the letter it was clear that the boy had great difficulty walking when he was growing up.  But it was also clear that he was making steady progress as the Babe expressed great happiness at the picture the boy sent of him riding a horse.

 

   The Babe concluded the letter by saying that he hoped that one day the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium would say, “Now replacing Babe Ruth in right field…” and then he wrote in the boy’s name. I would think the boy was thrilled to receive that letter of hope.

 

    In general it can be very positive to have someone think brightly of your future. It can give a different perspective to someone who’s going through a cycle of despair. After all, the giver of these positive words knows it is what he is thinking about the person in need. In general, it is less helpful when a person purports that he or she knows what the other person is thinking, feeling or going through.

 

    To be sure, it can be helpful if someone has a broken leg to tell what it was like when you had a broken leg. But a line is crossed when you say to that person, “I know exactly what you’re going through. I had the same thing.” No two people have the same exact injury and no two people relate to it the same way.

 

    I know of a man who was grief-stricken when his father was killed in an automobile accident. On the day he went back to work after shivah he felt numb and was just going through the motions. What he needed was a friend to draw him out and get him to relate what was going on. A well-meaning person walked up to him soon after he walked into the office and explained that she, too, had lost her father under tragic circumstances, and she knew exactly what he was going through. Then she walked away. Rather than feeling comforted, the man felt that the woman hadn’t connected one iota to what he was going through.

 

    “I’m sorry with what you’re going through” gives a person an opening to express what’s on his or her mind. Sometimes it’s not so important what you tell persons in need, but rather, it’s what they tell you that can be so beneficial to them.

 

    There is a man who has great difficulty speaking. I’ll call him Reuven. He lies in bed all day and all night. To his credit, he is able to do a lot of religious learning by memory and that gives him something stimulating and meaningful to occupy significant stretches of time. It’s wonderful when people compliment him for the great learning he does. Positive reinforcement is very important.

 

    However, there is one man who I think went too far in his compliments. He would say, “Reuven, you’re luckier than the rest of us. We have our bodies that get in the way of our spiritual needs. But you, you can focus day and night on the spiritual. You’re at a much better place than the rest of us.”

 

    And while I’m hearing this I’m thinking that maybe Reuven would love to have better use of his body, would love to have better use of his arms where he could hold his grandchildren. Better use of his legs, where he could go on outings with his family and walk to shul. If Reuven wants to think he’s in a good place, that’s great. But is it really helpful to tell an ill person, in effect, that they’re better off having an infirmity? I think not.

 

    When going to see a person in great need, it can be very challenging to know what to say. This probably keeps a number of people from visiting in the first place. But if you go and it’s a big mitzvah to do so, especially if it’s very difficult, you can just keep things nice and simple.

 

   “How are you?” could lead to a conversation that will take on it’s own natural flow. And if you know there’s something he is trying to accomplish, you can let him know you’re rooting for him and that you think he will succeed.

 

    Realistic hope, given in a caring tone of voice, with body language that says, “I’m there for you,” can go a long way.

   

      Bikur Cholim of Boro Park has organized a program that deals with the specific needs of men who are Holocaust survivors. “The Afternoon Chevra” is for retired men and meets on Monday afternoons at 1:30 p.m. at Sarah Schenirer Hall, 4622 14th Avenue. For more information contact Rabbi Baruch Krupnik at 718/249-3515.

 

    A Daf Yomi shiur open to the community is given by Rabbi Chaskel Scharf at Scharf’s Ateret Avot Senior Residence, 1410 E. 10th Street, Midwood, Brooklyn. It meets at 2:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 11:15 a.m. on Friday. Call 718/998-5400 for more information.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/connecting-to-the-person-in-need/2009/02/25/

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