Hall of Fame: Hank Greenberg (1956)


It has often been wondered, “What might have been …”
Year Team     G    AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB   SO HBP  SH GDP   SB  CS   AVG   OBP   SLG
1930 DET A 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
1933 DET A 117 449 59 135 33 3 12 87 46 78 1 2 6 2 .301 .367 .468
1934 DET A 153 593 118 201 63 7 26 139 63 93 2 9 9 5 .339 .404 .600
1935 DET A 152 619 121 203 46 16 36 170 87 91 0 4 4 3 .328 .411 .628
1936 DET A 12 46 10 16 6 2 1 16 9 6 0 0 1 0 .348 .455 .630
1937 DET A 154 594 137 200 49 14 40 183 102 101 3 2 8 3 .337 .436 .668
1938 DET A 155 556 144 175 23 4 58 146 119 92 3 3 7 5 .315 .438 .683
1939 DET A 138 500 112 156 42 7 33 112 91 95 2 11 8 8 3 .312 .420 .622
1940 DET A 148 573 129 195 50 8 41 150 93 75 1 3 15 6 3 .340 .433 .670
1941 DET A 19 67 12 18 5 1 2 12 16 12 0 0 1 1 0 .269 .410 .463
1945 DET A 78 270 47 84 20 2 13 60 42 40 0 0 9 3 1 .311 .404 .544
1946 DET A 142 523 91 145 29 5 44 127 80 88 0 1 17 5 1 .277 .373 .604
1947 PIT N 125 402 71 100 13 2 25 74 104 73 4 0 16 0 .249 .408 .478
Total NL 125 402 71 100 13 2 25 74 104 73 4 0 16 0 .249 .408 .478
Total AL 1269 4791 980 1528 366 69 306 1202 748 771 12 35 50i 58 26 .319 .412 .616
Total 1394 5193 1051 1628 379 71 331 1276 852 844 16 35 66i 58 26i .313 .412 .605

2 MVP Awards (1935, 1940)
4 All-Star Games (1937-1940)

The first “Hammerin’ Hank” was born on January 1, 1911 in the Bronx. Henry Benjamin Greenberg was a physical specimen at 6’4″ and 215 lbs. while in high school, but his coordination was actually quite poor. His high school coach would later recall that Greenberg worked so hard because he was afraid of being embarassed. Overcoming his possible physical shortcomings (or tallcomings?), Greenberg was a two-sport star in baseball and, you guessed it, basketball, but Greenberg was always more interested in baseball. The Giants came calling, but McGraw eventually deemed him too awkward. The Yankees came next (a devout Jew, the Yankees saw the possible draw of a Jewish star in New York), but with Lou Gehrig seemingly cemented at first, Greenberg said no. In January of 1930, he finally signed with the Detroit Tigers.

Greenberg spent 3 seasons in the minors, but after nailing 32 dingers in 1932, the Tigers found a spot for him in 1933. He made an instant impact, lacing 33 doubles and 12 homers while hitting .301. Playing 153 games in 1934, Greenberg broke out. 63 doubles, 26 home runs, 139 RBI’s and a 1.005 OPS later (.339 batting average), Greenberg was a star, but his most famous game was one he didn’t play, sitting out Yom Kippur during a pennant race. A season later, he was an MVP, but it didn’t end well. During the regular season, he hit .328 with 46 doubles, 36 home runs, and an astounding 170 RBI’s, but he wasn’t an All-Star (he had 103 RBI’s by the break!! What happened?). However, once he led the Tigers to a World Series they would ultimately win, he broke his wrist in the second game of the World Series. When the next season rolled around, he broke the same wrist again, 12 games into the season. It appeared that his career was over.

But Greenberg was used to overcoming the odds. His 1937 campaign was a masterpiece. He hit .337/.436/.668 with 49 doubles and 40 home runs, and he made a run at Hack Wilson’s RBI record when he posted 183. Greenberg belted 58 more home runs, nearing Ruth’s record and tying Jimmie Foxx’s for righties, a year later. 1939 was okay, but he did something truly remarkable for a man of his stature — moved to left field to accomodate a younger player, Rudy York. It worked as the Tigers won the pennant. In 1941, he was inducted into service to be discharged a little later, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he re-enlisted, this time to the Air Corps. He served in the Pacific Arena with distinction, but he missed out on 4 and a half seasons of his prime. When he came back, he acted as if nothing had happened, hitting a home run in his first game. 1946 was another great season, but after a salary dispute with the Tigers owner, he was sent to Pittsburgh. Greenberg threatened to retire, but the Pirates convinced him to come back for one more season. Though he didn’t hit all that great, his biggest contribution was mentoring Ralph Kiner, who would lead a Hall of Fame career.

Greenberg retired to the Cleveland Indians front office after the season. He would become general manager and was an advocate of bringing African-Americans into the game (I wonder if that had to do with his military service or empathy due to the Anti-Semitism he faced). In 1956, he finally became a member of the Hall of Fame when he garned 164 of 193 votes (85%).

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2 Responses to “Hall of Fame: Hank Greenberg (1956)”

  1. Bill Says:

    Nice writeup. There was an excellent documentary about Hank Greenberg made about ten years ago. I think it was just called "The Life and Time of Hank Greenberg."

  2. Bill Says:

    *Times

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