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Hank  Greenberg Hank Greenberg

Baseball Great and a True American Hero Detroit Tigers 1930-1947

Big, Strong and Powerful... 5th Highest Slugging Percentage of All Time - 6'3, 210-pounds

Complied from notebooks, newspaper clippings and from old scrapbooks and encyclopedias.

'Hammerin' Hank Greenberg's career statistics of .92 RBIs per/game is equaled only by legend Lou Gehrig and Sam Crawford, both Hall of Fame members. Only three players have busted more doubles in a single season than the 63 he hit in 1934 and Greenberg's career slugging percentage of .605 is the fifth highest total in baseball history.

When he retired in 1947, Greenberg's 313 home runs was the 5th highest total of all-time.

Greenberg's lifetime numbers could have been even higher had he not missed four and a half years from his prime while serving in the United States military during World War II. He was the second baseball player to join the military - Hugh Mulcahy was the first - Greenberg served and received his discharge papers on December 5, 1941. Only two days later Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and he turned around and re-enlisted.

Greenberg was 30-years old when he entered the military and had just led the American League with 50 doubles, 41 home runs, 150 RBIs, and a whooping .670 slugging percentage, and won his second MVP Award. When he returned in 1945 he was not the same prototypical slugger.

Many historians rate Greenberg's 9 1/2-year career as the greatest in baseball history. He lined 1628 hits in 1394 games - a .313 career batting mark - slugged 379 doubles, 71 triples to go with his 331 homers. And is one of the few sluggers in history to walked more times than he struck out, 852 BB, 844 Ks.

Born on New Year's Day of 1911 in New York to Rumanian Jewish immigrants, Greenberg grow rapidly and at age 13, was 6-foot-3. At age 16, he weighed 200-pounds. With flat, big feet and a bulky body, he was not a natural looking athletic during his teenage years. According to his high school coach, young Greenberg practiced constantly and hard work became the cornerstone of his athletic philosophy. In his senior year of high school, Greenberg was the state's top athlete and his compelling performances led his baseball, basketball and soccer teams to New York City Championships.

After Greenberg graduated high school he enrolled at New York University at his parents request. However, the Detroit Tigers offered the young slugger a $9,000 bonus - $3,000 upon signing the remainder to be paid after he graduated. His parents were pleased, but after one semester at N. Y. U., he left college and joined the Tiger organization in 1930.

In the minors "Hammerin' Hank was always taking extra fielding and batting practice. Those quality work habits stayed with him for his entire career.

The Tigers brought him up to the majors in time for the 1933 season. He responded by batting .303, 12 homers, 87 RBIs in 117 games. The following year, Greenberg captured the attention of the nation's baseball fans by lining 63 doubles, 26 home runs, batting .339 along with 139 RBIs and helped the Tigers win the American League pennant. However they were bested in the World Series in seven games by the St. Louis Cardinals and there so-called 'Gas House Gang'. Greenberg hit .321 in the Series, but struck out nine times, And seven of those times with men on base.

In 1935 Greenberg came on strong and pounded 22 homers while leading the league with 170 RBIs and was voted the league's Most Valuable Player. And the Tigers returned to the World Series - this time against the Chicago Cubs. In Game 2, Greenberg was hit by a pitch that broke his wrist and missed the rest of the Series - Detroit won in six games.

During the 1935 World Series Greenberg was taunted especially by the Cubs because he was Jewish. He never retaliated, he simply claim that the slurs only drove him to become a better player.

In 1937, Gtreenberg batted .337, smashed 49 doubles, 40 homers and knocked in 183 runs - only one under the still-unbroken AL all-time baseball mark set by Lou Gehrig.

In 1938, Greenberg tied Jimmie Foxx's record for home runs by a right-handed batter with 58. The next season, Greenberg set a major league record with 11 multiple homer games.

After playing only 19 games to begin the 1941 season Greenberg was drafted into the Armed Forces. He spent most of the war on active duty in China and India, unlike most sport heroes who spent their service years on military ball teams in the states.

He had barely swung a bat for more than four years when he returned to the Tigers in '45. More than 50,000 fans jammed Tiger Stadium to welcome back their hero on July 1, 1945 - and Greenberg obligingly hit a game-winning homer.

On the final day of '45, Greenberg smashed a ninth-inning, pennant-clinching, grand-slam homer giving the Tigers a 6-3 win. And also homered and drove in seven runs to win Game 2 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs - in leading the Tigers to their World Series Crown.

In 1946, Greenberg led the American League with 44 home runs and 127 RBIs.

After the '46 season, the Tigers balked at the $25,000 raise he requested, which would have boosted his salary to $75,000 per/year, and placed him on waivers. The club didn't even bother to notify the big slugger of their decision; he first heard of it on the radio. When no AL team claimed him, the Pittsburgh Pirates paid the Tigers $40,000 for him, wanting to create a power-hitting duo of Greenberg and second year Pirate player Ralph Kiner.

However, when Greenberg refused to report to Pittsburgh and "announced he was retiring," the John Galbreath, the Pirates' owner raised his salary to and even sweeten the pot by adding a race horse that was worth thousands of dollars. Greenberg accepted the terms of the contract, becoming the first $100,000 NL player - it wasn't until 11 years later that the Cardinals' Stan Musial became the second.

The Pirates management also brought in the left field fence by 35-feet, and created the home run heaven known as "Greenberg's Garden."

When the Bucs decided to send second-year player Kiner to the minors to start the 1947 season, Greenberg persuaded them to keep Kiner, stating "I will teach him patience at the plate." Kiner responded by striking out 28 fewer times, walking 25 more times and lined 51 homers - 28 more than he hit the previous year - his rookie season. The Pirates finished tied for last place but set an attendance record - 1,283,611 fans at home and over one million on the road, as well.

Hampered by back ailments, Greenberg's homers fell off to only 25 in 1947, and hit only .249, but did collect a league leading 104 walks.

Greenberg retired after that season and then was signed by Bill Veeck as the Cleveland Indians' farm team director. In 1950, Greenberg was promoted to Indians' general manager and later became part-owner. In '58, Greenberg became a partner with Veeck when they purchased the Chicago White Sox. The 1959 White Sox won their first pennant in 40 years.

In LawrenceRitter's book, "The Glory of Their Times," Greenberg is quoted as saying, "When I was playing, I used to resent being singled out as a Jewish ballplayer. I wanted to be known as a great ballplayer, period. Lately though, I find myself wanting to be remembered not only as a great ballplayer, but as a great Jewish ballplayer."

Hank Greenberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956.

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