Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One

Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One

by Mark Kurlansky
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

One of the reasons baseball fans so love the sport is that it involves certain physical acts of beauty. And one of the most beautiful sights in the history of baseball was Hank Greenberg's swing. His calmly poised body seemed to have some special set of springs with a trigger release that snapped his arms and swept the bat through the air with the clean speed and

Overview

One of the reasons baseball fans so love the sport is that it involves certain physical acts of beauty. And one of the most beautiful sights in the history of baseball was Hank Greenberg's swing. His calmly poised body seemed to have some special set of springs with a trigger release that snapped his arms and swept the bat through the air with the clean speed and strength of a propeller. But what is even more extraordinary than his grace and his power is that in Detroit of 1934, his swing—or its absence—became entwined with American Jewish history. Though Hank Greenberg was one of the first players to challenge Babe Ruth's single-season record of sixty home runs, it was the game Greenberg did not play for which he is best remembered. With his decision to sit out a 1934 game between his Tigers and the New York Yankees because it fell on Yom Kippur, Hank Greenberg became a hero to Jews throughout America. Yet, as Kurlansky writes, he was the quintessential secular Jew, and to celebrate him for his loyalty to religious observance is to ignore who this man was.

In Hank Greenberg Mark Kurlansky explores the truth behind the slugger's legend: his Bronx boyhood, his spectacular discipline as an aspiring ballplayer, the complexity of his decision not to play on Yom Kippur, and the cultural context of virulent anti-Semitism in which his career played out.

What Kurlansky discovers is a man of immense dignity and restraint with a passion for sport who became a great reader—a man, too, who was an inspiration to the young Jackie Robinson, who said, "Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Baseball legend Hank Greenberg is remembered not only for hard hitting and an imposing physical presence, but for bravery in facing down bigots who resented the Jewish athlete's ethnicity. The Bronx-born kid achieved stardom with the Detroit Tigers in the ‘30s, served in WWII, and eventually took a management position. Early notoriety came when he famously refused to play ball on Yom Kippur. Jewish parents of that era were less than anxious for their sons to pursue sports, preferring education and the more cerebral professions that followed. While some Jewish athletes changed their names, Greenberg stood proud, even though Detroit had been characterized as the most anti-Semitic city in America, helped in large part by Henry Ford's notoriously anti-Jewish newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. Though Greenberg "was sensitive to his responsibility to his people, the grandness of that role conflicted with his natural humility." He was an ardent supporter of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major-leaguer, as well as others who suffered prejudice. Kurlansky's (The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macorís) slim volume puts a fascinating period of sports history into a vivid cultural context. (Apr.)
San Francisco Chronicle - Allen Barra

"Mark Kurlansky, a historian and a fan, zeroes in on Greenberg like Hammerin' Hank teeing off on a fastball."—Allen Barra, Newark Star-Ledger
Post and Courier

"Kurlansky effectively adds admirable layers to a 'quintessential secular Jew' often misunderstood and certainly deserving of more appreciation, on and off the field."—Post and Courier
Newark Star-Ledger
Mark Kurlansky, a historian and a fan, zeroes in on Greenberg like Hammerin' Hank teeing off on a fastball.—Allen Barra, Newark Star-Ledger

— Allen Barra

USA Today
A graceful appreciation.—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

— Bob Minzesheimer

San Francisco Chronicle
Mark Kurlansky, a historian and a fan, zeroes in on Greenberg like Hammerin' Hank teeing off on a fastball.—Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle

— Allen Barra

National Jewish Post & Opinion
If this fine biography is any sample of [the series] previously published and those still to come, these publications will make a stellar contribution to our understanding of notable Jews. . . . Mark Kurlansky offers an excellent, well-written analysis of the life and times of Hank Greenberg. . . . This account of Greenberg's life is thorough, insightful, and well-written.—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion

— Morton I. Teicher

The Weekly Standard
Well-written, clear and concise.—Zachary Munson, The Weekly Standard

— Zachary Munson

Jewish Journal
Context is vital to the craft of biography. Kurlansky provides excellent context over and over. What he offers about Greenberg playing or not playing on Yom Kippur constitutes valuable context about Judaism—Steve Weinberg, Jewish Journal

— Steve Weinberg

The Washington Post
It's the best of the lot because it kept surprising me.—Steven V. Roberts, The Washington Post

— Steven V. Roberts

Boston Sunday Globe
The prolific Kurlansky has outdone himself.—Jan Gardner, Boston Sunday Globe

— Jan Gardner

Forward
Kurlansky’s book is an excellent addition to the Yale University Press Jewish Lives series. It is, I suspect, no accident that most of the titles, both those already published and the projected volumes deal with secular Jewish lives. A few of those lives, like the one Kurlansky has given us in this well-written and unpretentious biography, may also speak of the need to hit.— Leonard Kriegel, Forward 

— Leonard Kriegel

Library of Michigan

Named on of Michigan's 20 Most Notable Books in 2012 by the Library of Michigan.

— Michigan Notable Book

Boston Sunday Globe - Jan Gardner

"The prolific Kurlansky has outdone himself."—Jan Gardner, Boston Sunday Globe
USA Today - Bob Minzesheimer

"A graceful appreciation."—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
The Washington Post - Steven V. Roberts

"It's the best of the lot because it kept surprising me."—Steven V. Roberts, The Washington Post
Jewish Journal - Steve Weinberg

"Context is vital to the craft of biography. Kurlansky provides excellent context over and over. What he offers about Greenberg playing or not playing on Yom Kippur constitutes valuable context about Judaism"—Steve Weinberg, Jewish Journal
National Jewish Post & Opinion - Morton I. Teicher

"If this fine biography is any sample of [the series] previously published and those still to come, these publications will make a stellar contribution to our understanding of notable Jews. . . . Mark Kurlansky offers an excellent, well-written analysis of the life and times of Hank Greenberg. . . . This account of Greenberg's life is thorough, insightful, and well-written."—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion
The Weekly Standard - Zachary Munson

"Well-written, clear and concise."—Zachary Munson, The Weekly Standard
Jewish Journal - Morton Teicher

"This account of Greenberg's life is thorough, insightful and well-written. It achieves distinction by describing his character and career, setting them against the background of a turbulent era in Jewish history."—Morton Teicher, Jewish Journal
Forward - Leonard Kriegel

“Kurlansky’s book is an excellent addition to the Yale University Press Jewish Lives series. It is, I suspect, no accident that most of the titles, both those already published and the projected volumes deal with secular Jewish lives. A few of those lives, like the one Kurlansky has given us in this well-written and unpretentious biography, may also speak of the need to hit.” — Leonard Kriegel, Forward 
Library of Michigan - Michigan Notable Book

Named one of Michigan's 20 Most Notable Books in 2012 by the Library of Michigan.
Library Journal
This new Yale series hinted at its breadth with its first three subjects: Moses Mendelssohn, Sarah Bernhardt, and Solomon. Now stepping up to the plate is one of the Detroit Tigers' all-time greatest players. Kurlansky (Cod) shows how the American Jewish experience can be a secular one, that playing baseball served as part of the Americanization process for immigrant families, an act of assimilation. Hyman Greenberg, born in New York to Romanian Jewish immigrants, became Hank Greenberg, the American baseball hero, perhaps idolized by American Jews precisely because he operated against Jewish stereotypes. Kurlansky has interviewed members of the Greenberg family, as he also places his story in a broader cultural context. For fans of baseball's golden greats, of interpretive biographies, and of this series.—M.H. — "Sneak Peak," Booksmack! 1/20/11
Bill Scheft
…Mark Kurlansky's scholarly slice of Hank Greenberg is always winning…Kurlansky is refreshingly outward-looking. Everything is put in context, especially the relationship of Jews to sports and sports to Jews as a path to assimilation.
—The New York Times
New York Times Book Review - Bill Scheft

“Always winning. . . . Kurlansky adroitly weaves the reluctance with which Greenberg wore this symbolic tallit throughout his life.”—New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300136609
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
03/29/2011
Series:
Jewish Lives Series
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author


Mark Kurlansky has written, edited, or contributed to twenty books, which have been translated into twenty-five languages and won numerous prizes. His previous books Cod, Salt, 1968, and The Food of a Younger Land were all New York Times best-sellers.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, NY
Date of Birth:
December 7, 1948
Place of Birth:
Hartford, CT
Education:
Butler University, B.A. in Theater, 1970

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >