Greenberg's legacy to be celebrated
Tribute in Cooperstown honors Hall of Famer's heritage
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A tribute to the career of Hank Greenberg, marking the 75th anniversary of his rookie season in the Major Leagues, will take place this weekend at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The event is a presentation of Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc., the Newton, Mass., organization that created the two-day "Celebration of American Jews in Baseball" special at the Hall in the summer of 2004.
Greenberg, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956, is regarded as baseball's greatest Jewish player. The right-handed slugger won the American League Most Valuable Player Award at two positions, as a first baseman in 1935 and as a left fielder in 1940. He batted .313 with 331 home runs and 1,276 RBIs over a 13-season career -- all but one year with the Detroit Tigers -- that was interrupted by four years of military service during World War II.
The program begins at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday with a screening of Aviva Kempner's film, "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," at the Bullpen Theater, to be followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. A panel discussion will begin at 9:10 a.m. Sunday in the Grandstand Theater.
Panelists will include Kempner; Pulitzer Prize winner Ira Berkow, former New York Times sports columnist and co-author of Greenberg's 1989 autobiography; Alva Greenberg, Hank's daughter; social and sports historian Bill Simons of the State University of New York-Oneonta, and Dr. Martin Abramowitz, founder and president of Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc.
Author-historian Marty Appel, a former public relations director and television producer for the New York Yankees, will serve as moderator following welcoming remarks from Hall president Jeff Idelson.
A book signing in the Library Atrium will follow from 12:15-12:45 p.m. A second showing of "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" will be at 1:30 p.m. in the Bullpen Theater.
The event is free of charge but will require a ticket that can be reserved by calling the Membership department at 607-547-0397.
Greenberg, who drove in 183 runs in 1937 and hit 58 home runs in 1938, is one of four Jews elected to the Hall of Fame. The others are pitcher Sandy Koufax, former Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss (to be inducted next month) and shortstop Lou Boudreau, whose mother was Jewish. After his playing career, Greenberg was general manager of the Cleveland Indians and co-owner with Bill Veeck of the Indians and Chicago White Sox.
"We honor Hank Greenberg for what he did for a generation of Jewish youngsters, many first-generation Americans who were learning baseball and looked with pride to the great slugger star of the Tigers," Abramowitz said. "His refusal to play on Yom Kippur, his standing up to anti-Semitism, and the stature he brought to our national pastime made him then -- and now -- a role model for the ages."
In a letter to Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc., Commissioner Bud Selig wrote, "Alongside the likes of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron, Hank Greenberg is another player who surely would appear on my personal list of favorites. Hank was a magnificent player, a true Hall of Famer. A two-time American League MVP, Hank played on four AL pennant winners and two world championship clubs with the Tigers (1935, 1945).
"But to talk solely about his exploits on the field would be a disservice. Hank's career reflected the times in which he lived. Hank Greenberg served his country with honor, overcame the ignorance that marked the times and blazed trails during his wonderfully rich life."
Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.