Jew of the Week: Hank Greenberg

The Hebrew Hammer

Hank Greenberg - 'The Hebrew Hammer'

Hank Greenberg – ‘The Hebrew Hammer’

Hyman ‘Henry Benjamin’ Greenberg¬†(1911-1986) was born in New York to a Romanian-Jewish family. As a child, he was faced with many physical challenges, including flat feet, a stutter, and lack of coordination. He worked hard to overcome these issues, becoming his high school’s best all-around athlete, especially in basketball. He preferred baseball though, and after a year of university was signed by the Detroit Tigers. At 19, he became the youngest player ever to make the big leagues. He went on to be a 5-time All-Star and 2-time MVP, still holding the American League record for most RBIs in a single season. Not forgetting his heritage, one of his most famous moments was abstaining from playing a critical game because it was scheduled on Yom Kippur. In the midst of his baseball career, World War II began, and Greenberg was the first player to be drafted to the US Army. He was soon released from the military, but that was two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Greenberg thus re-enlisted – the first Major League player to volunteer – and served for 45 months, the longest of any baseball player. He rose to the rank of First Lieutenant in the US Air Force, fighting in China, Burma, and India. At the end of the war he returned to baseball, still in good form and immediately making the All-Star team. He was later sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him $80,000 so that he wouldn’t retire, making him the highest-paid player of that time period. After retiring, he turned to management and brought great success to several teams, especially the Cleveland Indians. Perhaps most significantly, Greenberg changed the face of the sport, sponsoring more African-Americans than any other baseball executive. In fact, he befriended and supported Jackie Robinson, the very first African-American player in the major leagues. Having experienced severe racism and anti-Semitism of his own, Greenberg worked hard to make the world of sport open and equal to all. A Hall of Famer, Greenberg is still considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

 

Words of the Week

The entire world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid at all.
– Rabbi Nachman of Breslov