I know I’m old school, and at times all I can do is shake my head at what some ball players make, or what they do off the field, getting away with things the average man couldn’t, with seemingly no consequences. Charles Barkley once said he’s not a role model. Well I think athletes and movie stars are role models whether they like it or not. To many young kids are influnenced by them. Good or bad they want to be like them. Well on the eve of a new baseball season, I wanted to pay tribute to one of the games best ever, and a man who put up with alot of social steriotypes, constant heckiling from fans and hardships. Being Jewish was hard enough, but being a Jewish ball player in 1930s America made him even more open for criticism. Especially when he had a 0-4 day at the plate.
I’m talking about Hank Greenberg. One of the best ball players ever, during an era of many greats. Not only was Greenberg one of the best hitters in baseball history, he missed 3 full seasons and most of 2 others to military service during World War II, and missed most of another season with a broken wrist. Think about that….he missed 3 baseball seasons to go to WAR! Came back and still put up monster numbers.
A first baseman primarily for the Detroit Tigers, Greenberg was one of the premier power hitters of his generation. He hit 58 home runs in 1938, the most in one season by any player between 1927,when Babe Ruth set a record of 60, and 1961when Roger Maris surpassed it. The five time all-star was twice named the MVP of the American League, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956. The anti-Semitism Greenberg faced ranged from players staring at him because they had never before seen a Jew, to coarse racial epithets hurled at him. Particularly abusive were the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1934 World Series. Examples of this were: “Hey Mo,” referring to Moses and “Throw a pork chop he can’t hit that,” referring to laws of Kashrut. Greenberg always seemed to keep a cool head. He was a mans man. A real Pro. And Baseball was more than his “job”, it seemed to be his passion. In my opinion he was a great role model for kids in the 1930s and 40s, and even today. The culture of sports and even living in general is much different today than it was then, this I know, but somethings are timeless. Hank Greenberg is one of them.