Hank Greenberg is a player who was great player but might be a lot better if his career could be run again. He lost more time to WWII than any player I know of. He went into the service during the 1941 season in preparation for WWII. I don’t know any other player who did service that year. Most did it from 1942 to 1945. Hank only played 19 games in 1941 before joining the service. Anyway, come December 5th, the U.S. was still not involved in the war, so Hank was released. Two days later, Pearl Harbor happened so Hank was called back. He came back and played a half a year in 1945 and was a World Series hero. Now I gave some points to players in the military, but it wasn’t as much if they played and had a solid season for themselves.
Also, Greenberg joined the majors in 1933 when two of the greatest first basemen of all time Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx were already established and still playing great. It is hard for a young player to pass those two to make the all-star team.
I pushed Hank up three positions at first base because of these issues. However, the biggest thing he had to fight he was Jewish. A lot of players and fans gave him a hard time because he was Jewish. He also gave Jackie Robinson some advice on handling the jeers, because of the jeers he received.
In his Wikipedia biography made millions of dollars in the stock market in the 60s and lived comfortably the rest of his life. However, I think the smartest investment he ever made was with The Sporting News. The Sporting News was a national weekly newspaper you could subscribe to that covered all sports. When I was in college I subscribed, and it covered baseball, football, hockey, basketball, and auto racing with some coverage of the other sports. However, its main concentration was baseball. I also subscribed to it as an adult. In the 1950’s for a short time they had a cash flow problem, which often happens in business, so they offered a lifetime subscription for a reasonable amount. It was for a short time, but one of the people to take advantage of the offer was Hank Greenberg. The editors of the newspaper would periodically write a little blurb on this and Greenberg would say he still enjoyed the paper. Now that is a great investment.
2 thoughts on “No. 117 Hank Greenberg (Number 12 First Base)”
Gary, thank you for your replies, they are great. I am spastic about how I read about players also. I often only read about players I like. This project is forcing me to get out of my comfort zone in that way. One of the things I told myself when I retired is to do things out of my comfort zone. I found some I really enjoy.
I haven’t read very many anecdotes involving Hank Greenberg. That’s odd for such a great player, but maybe it’s just me. I read a lot, but not in a systematic way; maybe I just didn’t find the right books.
A couple I do recall, both I think from chapters of ballplayer memories in “Baseball When The Grass Was Real).
One was a mention by Spud Chandler of a great catch by Joe Dimaggio. As Spud put it, “Greenberg hit it, Dimaggio caught it…and I’m the guy the threw the pitch.”
The other mention was by Rip Sewell, a pitcher famous for the Eephus pitch. He mentioned almost making the big club coming out of spring training, but he got into a ferocious fight with Greenberg after a misunderstanding on the team bus. As management put it, they had a lot of pitchers, but they weren’t gonna send Greenberg out.
Hank only really had 9 full seasons, partly due to three years in the service as Doug mentions, but also hardly played in two other years and half of another (I assume injury). Despite the great hitting environment during his career, his hitting stats will make you sit up and take notice. You can’t discount them ‘that’ much.