Hank Greenberg played baseball for the Detroit Tigers. He had a beautiful swing and at one time was in the running to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. What he is most well known for however, is the game he didn’t play in 1934 because it fell on Yom Kippur. With that act he became a hero to the Jewish people. He was uncomfortable with that label. He didn’t want to be known as “the Jewish ballplayer”, he wanted to be known as a ballplayer that just happened to be Jewish.
This book is part biography and part history lesson. We learn what kind of man Hank Greenberg was, how he dedicated himself to being the best ballplayer he could, even though at the time it wasn’t considered an honorable profession. His mother called him, my son the bum ball player.
Kurlansky writes about his childhood in the Bronx, how he wasn’t exposed to a lot of racism there, but when he began to play ball in Detroit he was called names. He advised other Jewish rookies to “Change their name.” to avoid problems and be more successful. Hank Greenberg set an example for others in how to deal with small-minded people. And while he stated that Jackie Robinson had to deal with more racism than he did, Jackie Robinson said of him: “Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg.”