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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2013
Author John Rosengren has blessed us with the definitive biography on Detroit Tigers' Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. Greenberg grew up in New York City's Bronx and experienced the antisemitism that was to follow him well into his baseball career. The Yankees wanted to sign him to lure Jewish customers to Yankee Stadium, but since first base was being held down by Lou Gehrig Hank felt his chances to advance to the major leagues would be better signing with the Detroit Tigers.

Author Rosengren correctly spends a good deal of time emphasizing the bigotry experienced by Greenberg in America at the time of Hitler's rise to power in Germany and his persecution of the Jews. An example of the ignorance of people is illustrated by Jo Jo White, a teammate of Greenberg's. White slowly circled around Hank looking for something freakish. Greenberg asked him if he found anything interesting. White replied, "I'm just looking. I've never seen a Jew before. I don't understand it. You look just like anybody else."

Greenberg's career with the Tigers included two MVP awards each won at a different position, first base and left field. Greenberg moved to left field to accommodate Rudy York at first base who was best suited to DH had there been such a position at the time. Hank did not do well in the 1934 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and saw very limited play due to an injured wrist in the 1935 Series in which the Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs. Hank experienced defeat for his Tigers in the 1940 Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Finally in 1945 Hank had a World Series in which he played a significant role when the Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs.

Greenberg had to battle for his salary against Tigers' management and the club released him in 1947 when Hank was picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hank played a significant role in helping a young Ralph Kiner adjust to life in the major leagues. Greenberg also witnessed the bigoted remarks his Pirates' teammates hurled at Jackie Robinson during Robinson's first year with the Dodgers. Hank realized from his own experience what Robinson was going through and gave Robinson some encouraging words when Jackie reached first base. In reading this book I conclude that men like Pirates' manager Billy Herman and Phillies' manager Ben Chapman have left a sour legacy in the game's history. People may say they were a product of their times, but I don't buy that. Hatred and ignorance is part of their legacy in the game.

Author Rosengren spends time on Hank's military career in which he lost over four years of his baseball career while serving in the military. Following his playing career Hank found a good friend in Bill Veeck with both the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox. Ironically, Greenberg, now as part of management, treated players as he was treated by signing them for as little as possible. He didn't get along very well with Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, or Al Rosen. The author mentions Greenberg's worst trade in which he sent Mickey Vernon to the Washington Senators in exchange for pitcher Dick Weik. Author Rosengren assumes no one has heard of Dick Weik. He assumes incorrectly since I remember him in a Detroit Tigers' uniform in the 1954 Topps baseball card set.

Hank's home life is included in the book as well in regard to his relationship with his two wives and his children. I did find one minor typographical error on the top of page 128 in which the author may want to correct in the paperback edition when it becomes available. The word "dead" is misspelled as "dend." This book is a thorough biography of the Detroit Tigers' Hall of Famer and a very worthy addition to anyone's baseball library. Thank you, John Rosengren. You have provided your audience with a wonderful book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2013
With "Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes," the historic slugger finally gets the biography he deserves. Rosengren delves into the sometimes mysterious always mythic Greenberg with the zeal of a fine investigative reporter, but brings back his findings in finely nuanced interpretation and written style, making the book a pleasure to read. We are lucky to have John Rosengren, including Hank Greenberg.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2013
Half about baseball, half about anti-Semitism in America in the 1930s and 1940s, Hank Greenberg comes off as the Jewish Jackie Robinson. This is a totally absorbing biography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2014
The best baseball book I have ever read. Hank Greenberg was a professional, a great person, and o yea, he was Jewish. I loved the writing, the flow, the toughness Hankus Pankus showed, his devotion to his religion and to his friends. Well done Mr. Rosengren. You wrote a great book about a great man.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2013
Being 88 years old, the Hank Greenberg story was very interesting to me. I was a New Yorker as a boy within easy distance of Yankee Stadium who ignored that and became fascinated by Hank Greenberg and the Detroit Tigers. As I grew older I lost all interest in baseball but loved football and track and field meets. I was in the Army for 2 1/2 years during and after World War but I followed the sports news and when I knew that the Tigers were playing the Chicago Cubs for the championship, I made a bet with another soldier on the World Series and of course the Tigers won and I collected my bet. The book brought back memories of years ago. I had forgotten all about Hank Greenberg many years ago but was amazed about the history of his life presented by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2013
This is a story of a man and his ethnicity, and the impact of both on baseball history. In some ways, although not the first Jew in baseball, Greenberg faced some of the same hatred as Jackie Robinson but to a lesser degree.
The story reveals the inner conflict that Greenberg had as an idol to the Jewish community,even if he was not a devout Jew, and his loyalty to the team. He carried an immense burden not only to succeed for himself, since he was not naturally gifted as an athlete, but also for his people.
He was a fierce competitor, demanded every ounce of sweat from himself, and asked the same of others. That philosophy often translated into conflicts with players and management as he evolved into a GM, Vice President, and even part owner of teams.
Can I say this compares favorably to Al Stump's Ty Cobb? No, but then again Stump's version may have been partial fabrication. Something is lacking in this portrayal that I can't put my finger on. Perhaps we don't really get to know Greenberg as much as we do Cobb,Mantle, Clemens, Gehrig, or DiMaggio. Or maybe Greenberg just wasn't as colorful so the story lacks the humor or intensity of the other players. In any event the book is worth reading about a Hall of Famer who lost over 4 years serving in World War 11 and would have likely had at least 500 homeruns if not for that service. His 183 RBI's in one season is still a remarkable accomplishment for any era.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2013
Wonderfully research story about one of the most important Jewish Americans of the 20th century. Greenberg was a leader on and off the field, someone we all American could be proud of. His greatness transcended the ball field, as he became a success in the military, in business, and in the front office of several ballclubs. John Rosengren has woven together a fascinating story about a larger than life individual.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2014
This most recent bio of Greenberg is probably the best in terms of factual accuracy and placing him in the context of his times--dealing with antisemitism, Hitler's rise to power as Greenberg simultaneously rose to stardom in baseball, etc. This is the one book to read about the great athlete.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2013
This is an excellently written, thoroughly researched biography of Hank. John Rosengren does a masterful job of placing Greenberg's accomplishments in the context of the 1930's and the swirling social currents of the time. Anyone interested in the history of baseball will appreciate this book.
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on July 4, 2013
Review:

Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, another player had to endure taunts from ignorant players and fans as well as wonder what would become of his people as he played the game during a tense time in world history. Hank Greenberg was a New York kid who became a star first baseman for the Detroit Tigers. Born of Jewish descent, Greenberg's best years on the field coincided with the rise of Hitler in Europe and his plan to wipe out the Jews. Author John Rosengren writes a wonderful biography with the emphasis on this time in Greenberg's life that is filled with much success as well as trouble.

The book covers events in the world at the time as skillfully as it does Greenberg's baseball career which included many records, including becoming the first player in baseball history to win the Most Valuable Player award twice in different positions. Greenberg also lost time to military service - nearly four years - and this part of his life, as well as his comeback is well documented. The book wraps up with Greenberg's career in the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians, his subsequent divorce and remarriage and his later years when the Tigers gave him a long overdue day of honor.

While these topics are well researched and documented, the book is also a very good source of information on some of the hot-button topics in baseball of that era. Race relations in baseball were mentioned, including Greenberg's interactions with Robinson as they both felt the heat of being a "minority" in a game with mostly white Christian males as players. Salaries and negotiations with players are frequently covered as the yearly negotiations Greenberg had with the Tigers always seemed to show his petulant side, yet there was always an agreement reached. It was especially ironic when Greenberg was later a general manager and would employ the same negotiating tactics with his players that infuriated him during his playing days.

This book is a thorough and enjoyable read on the life of one of baseball's greatest players. Fans of all generations of baseball should read this book to gain insight into not only one of the best players but also into the events and mindset of that time. Excellent book.

Did I skim?

No

Did I learn something new?

Yes. Many things, but what struck me the most was how much of a hero Greenberg was considered for Jewish people all across the country. I was also fascinated with his seemingly petulant behavior every year when he negotiated his contract. Considering this was during the time of the reserve clause and no agents, it was understandable, as it was usually the only leverage a player had during negotiations. But it was still surprising to me as it seemed to be the complete opposite of the persona that was portrayed.

Pace of the book:

Excellent - the narrative never was bogged down with unimportant information or overloaded the reader.

Do I recommend?
Yes. For any baseball fan or historian, this is a complete and entertaining account of Greenberg's life and baseball career.

Book Format Read:

Hardcover
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