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Hammerin' Hank: The Life of Hank Greenberg

Hammerin' Hank: The Life of Hank Greenberg

by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Malcah Zeldis (Illustrator), Yona Zeldis McDonough

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Meet one of America's earliest Jewish-American heroes.

The 1930s were a time when "outsiders" were not welcome in Major League Baseball. Henry Benjamin Greenberg began as one of those outsiders, but went on to become one of baseball's greatest right-handed batters.

Hammerin' Hank dominated baseball from 1933 to 1948 and was eventually inducted into the Baseball


Meet one of America's earliest Jewish-American heroes.

The 1930s were a time when "outsiders" were not welcome in Major League Baseball. Henry Benjamin Greenberg began as one of those outsiders, but went on to become one of baseball's greatest right-handed batters.

Hammerin' Hank dominated baseball from 1933 to 1948 and was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But Hank Greenberg was more than an amazing athlete. While Jews had been playing baseball since the 1800s, Hammerin' Hank was baseball's first Jewish superstar.

Editorial Reviews

When Henry Benjamin Greenberg was named to Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1956, he became the first Jewish player to earn that honor. And earn it he did: Although he missed four prime seasons to serve in World War II, "Hammerin' Hank" slammed his way into baseball history, leading the American League in home runs four times and winning two Most Valuable Player awards. This illustrated biography for children celebrates the life of an all-around all-star.
Publishers Weekly
This mother-daughter team (The Life of Ben Franklin, reviewed May 1) casts a bright spotlight on the pro baseball player born in New York in 1911 to parents who were Orthodox Jews. The anecdotal narrative underscores the effort that Greenberg put into his athletic endeavors as a tall, clumsy teen, even against his parents' wishes. Although he won a basketball scholarship to New York University, Greenberg was determined to follow his dream of playing baseball and signed on with the Detroit Tigers. He encountered anti-Semitism from spectators as well as fellow players, but Greenberg became a hero to American Jews. His impressive list of accomplishments includes a number of firsts. In 1935, he was voted Most Valuable Player in either the National or American Leagues the first Jewish player to receive that honor during a season in which the Tigers won the World Series for the first time in the team's 42-year history; he was the first major league player to enlist in WW II; he was the first Jewish ball player inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame; and the first Jewish co-owner of a major league team. Zeldis's trademark boldly hued, primitivist style gouache paintings seem well suited for her pioneer subject. Quotes from Greenberg convey his ingenuous and sympathetic personality (especially evident in his words of encouragement to Jackie Robinson). Ages 6-10. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
A succinctly written text highlights the on- and off-the-field feats of the first Jewish baseball player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Hank Greenberg's parents did not want him to be a professional baseball player but his love for the game was too overwhelming for him to ignore. He was not a natural athlete, so he practiced until he was good enough to play. And play he did! Despite the anti-Semitism he faced, Greenberg became a team leader for the Detroit Tigers. With important games on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 1934, he had to decide whether to play baseball and help his team or spend the day in synagogue. He served in World War II and returned to play for the Tigers. Facts about his personal life and life after his retirement from baseball are also mentioned. Quotes from Greenberg enliven the already engaging text. The accompanying folk art style illustrations mesh perfectly with the text. Look closely at the stadium fences and you will see many familiar sponsors from Coca Cola to Ford to Maxwell House coffee, and more. Front and back endpapers have hand-drawn baseball cards with the teams and names of other famous Jewish baseball players. Interested readers may want to find out more about these players as well. While the picture book format makes this accessible to younger children, this is a superb example of a book that can be used for discussions with teens. Topics, such as baseball and anti-Semitism, are obvious. Other topics include America in the 1930s, what it means to be a hero, the influence of sports on American social history, and a history of advertising in America, to name a few. Greenberg's impressive baseball statistics,a chronology of his life, a glossary of some baseball and Jewish terms, and a bibliography are located at the back of the book.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-A stirring picture-book biography. Greenberg's Hall of Fame career was marked by triumphant "firsts," though his ascent to stardom was achieved through struggle and perseverance. Throughout, he faced an awkward and, at times, thorny clash of cultures. His Orthodox Jewish parents felt baseball was a waste of time and hoped he'd pursue a respectable career. His prominence as the greatest Jewish player of his day made him a target of anti-Semitism both on and off the field. Late in his career, he met Jackie Robinson and offered the black player encouragement. McDonough offers a flattering treatment, amply documented in fact and complemented by gouache illustrations. Zeldis's portrayal of Greenberg, who at 13 stood six foot, three inches tall, towering above his schoolyard peers, perfectly conveys his gawky discomfiture. Text and art draw out humanizing details and lend perspective to Greenberg's achievements. This delightful collaboration will captivate baseball fans and charm newcomers.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hank Greenberg was not the first Jewish baseball player in the major leagues, but he was perhaps the first star ball player who was Jewish, and certainly the first elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. All through his career he faced anti-Semitism in many forms, including epithets and threats, from bigoted fans, other players and team owners. He remained observant and refused to play on Yom Kippur even though his team, the Detroit Tigers, was fighting for the pennant. He stated many times that he identified with Jackie Robinson, and he was one of the few opposing players who supported him openly from the beginning. McDonough's dispassionate retelling of Greenberg's biography carefully includes all the salient facts, and a few pertinent quotes. Zeldis's naif, detailed gouache illustrations are bright and childlike and provide a complementary focus for the text. A good introduction to a somewhat neglected baseball player. (statistics, chronology, glossary, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.63(w) x 11.14(h) x 0.53(d)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

YONA ZELDIS McDONOUGH is the author of nine books for children and young readers—four of them illustrated by her mother, renowned folk artist Malcah Zeldis—including Peaceful Protest: The Life of Nelson Mandela. The author lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their two children.

MALCAH ZELDIS was born in 1931 and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. As a child, Malcah spent endless hours with her brother, bedridden, listening to his hero, Hank Greenberg, play ball on the radio. Malcah Zeldis lives and paints in New York City.

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