Tiger Great Hammerin' Hank Greenberg. Henry Benjamin "Hank" Greenberg (January 1, 1911–September 4, 1986), a first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, was one of the premier power hitters of his generation. He hit 58 home runs in 1938, equalling Jimmie Foxx's 1932 mark for the most home runs in one season by any player between 1927 (when Babe Ruth set a record of 60) and 1961 (when Roger Maris surpassed it). A five-time All-Star, Greenberg was twice named the American League's Most Valuable Player, and, in 1956, was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.
When Greenberg, the first jewish baseball superstar, announced in the midst of a pennant race in 1934 that he would not play on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, or Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Tiger fans were understandably upset. He later relented somewhat and did play on Rosh Hashanah.¹ Capturing the emotions of the moment, Edgar Guest celebrated it with this poem:
Speaking of Greenberg by Edgar A. Guest
The Irish didn't like it when they heard of Greenberg's fame
For they thought a good first baseman should possess an Irish name;
And the Murphys and Mulrooneys said they never dreamed they'd see
A Jewish boy from Bronxville out where Casey used to be.
In the early days of April not a Dugan tipped his hat
Or prayed to see a "double" when Hank Greenberg came to bat.
In July the Irish wondered where he'd ever learned to play.
"He makes me think of Casey!" Old Man Murphy dared to say;
And with fifty-seven doubles and a score of homers made
The respect they had for Greenberg was being openly displayed.
But on the Jewish New Year when Hank Greenberg came to bat
And made two home runs off Pitcher Rhodes—they cheered like mad for that.
Came Yom Kippur—holy fast day world-wide over to the Jew—
And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true
Spent the day among his people and he didn't come to play.
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, "We shall lose the game today!
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat,
But he's true to his religion—and I honor him for that!"
... this poem appeared in the Detroit Free Press in 1934.
Of the many great Tiger players of yesterday the following were inducted into the Hall of Fame as Detroit Tigers: Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, Sam Crawford, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Harry Heilmann, Hughie Jennings, Al Kaline, George Kell, Heinie Manush and Hal Newhouser. Ernie Harwell, the Tigers play-by-play announcer for 42 years, was elected to the broadcasting division.
The League Champion Detroit Tigers are a MLB team playing in the Central Division of the American League. Here we feature Tigers players of yesterday and today. Here's a link to the complete current roster.
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