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September 14: Hammerin’ Hank

September 14, 2013
greenberg-at-briggs-stadium-1945Hank Greenberg (1911-1986) made his Major League Baseball debut for the Detroit Tigers at age 19 on this date in 1930. Although subsequently sent down to the minor leagues for conditioning, he would, by his second full year in the majors (1934), hit .339 with 26 home runs, 63 doubles, and a slugging percentage of .600, all of which led the Tigers to the World Series for the first time in 25 years. Greenberg was a five-time All-Star and was twice named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. The first Jewish superstar in American sports, he drove American Jews wild with his positive sense of Jewish identity and his awesome power-hitting, which included a run in 1938 at Babe Ruth’s record of 60 homers in a season (Greenberg ended with 58). He was the first ballplayer in the American League to be drafted into the armed forces, and reenlisted after the Pearl Harbor attack, serving a total of 45 months, the longest of any major leaguer. Despite this lengthy military service (and a broken wrist), Greenberg ended his career with 331 home runs and 1,276 runs batted in over the course of a 1,394-game, with a .313 lifetime batting average. He was the first Jew elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1956. He also befriended Jackie Robinson in his rookie year, 1947 (Greenberg had by then been traded to the National League), and also showed his sense of justice in 1970 by testifying on behalf of Curt Flood when the St. Louis outfielder challenged baseball’s reserve clause and won greatly expanded rights for players. To see the trailer for Aviva Kempner’s film, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, look below. “When I was playing, I used to resent being singled out as a Jewish ballplayer. I wanted to be known as a great ballplayer, period. I’m not sure why or when I changed, because I’m still not a particularly religious person. Lately, though, I find myself wanting to be remembered not only as a great ballplayer, but even more as a great Jewish ballplayer.” —Hank Greenberg JEWDAYO ROCKS! Paul Kossoff, lead guitarist for Free, was born in Hampstead, England on this date in 1950. He would die from drug abuse in 1976. To see Kossoff in action, look below. Another star lost to drug addiction, Amy Winehouse, died at 28 on this date in 2011. To see her in performance, click here and scroll down.