Friday, January 25, 2008

TW Hit List - Hank Greenberg

What does “TW” stand for? And what is its Hit List? I’ve come so close to forgetting myself, but just in time, I’ve posted again. Yes, blogging is back! No excuses, no explanations. We’re just going to pick up and blog on!

And so, “Hammerin’ Hank” Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg was a big man for his age (that’s Baseball Before BALCO, henceforth referred to as, “BBB”; DAWN, call your offices.) But he was more than brawn. Williams credits him with being one of the smartest ballplayers of BBB. He certainly was one of its best hitters. Greenberg hit over 300 home runs, batted in over 1,200 runs and scored over a thousand, while batting .313 over his career. He finished with a 1.017 OPS. These are certainly top-tier numbers worthy of Hall-of-Fame entry, however, what is remarkable is his unfortunate loss of four seasons to WWII (he voluntarily enlisted). He undoubtedly would have had monster numbers if not for this. He is not the household name most of our previous “Hit List” entries are, but in his day, his fellow ballplayers all knew that he was one of the premier hitters in the game.

He led the AL in home runs five times, batted over .300 nine times, led the league in RBIs four times and hit well over .300 in his four World Series appearances. He was AL MVP twice, becoming the first player to win the award at two different positions (1B and OF). I was impressed by the fact that he played as a right-hander just about his whole career as a Detroit Tiger where Briggs Stadium would be home. During the age of BBB, leftfield at Briggs Stadium was never less than 347’ and some years was 360’. Not too many cheap clouts at home.

Williams offers us his usual personal remarks of varying quality and helpfulness. About Greenberg, he mentions, “He spoke in general terms and didn’t divulge too much. I thought Greenberg was a great guy.” Great is a good English word too often loosely used. Now, Greenberg did want to be remembered as a great ballplayer, if not a “great guy.” He is also well-known for downplaying his Jewishness at first, but then coming to embrace it, even though he conceded that he was not “a particularly religious person.” He created some buzz by refusing to play on Yom Kippur in the middle of the 1934 pennant race. This was after he threatened the same concerning Rosh Hashanah, only to relent after too much grumbling, “Rosh Hashanah comes every year, but the Tigers haven’t won the pennant since 1909.” The Tigers did win the pennant, but went on to lose a classic World Series to the Cardinals in seven games.

“Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg.”


At 9:48 AM, Blogger dil8d halo said...

I think it's badass that he can come back after fighting FOUR YEARS in WWII and STILL be awesome! The fact that he was cranking homers in such a deep outfield is awesome too! This guy was legit.


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