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Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life Hardcover – May 13, 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For many, baseball's charm thrives on the oral tradition of grandfathers, with grandsons on their laps, passing down, in proper reverential tones, the legacy of players and memories. The late Greenberg captures that spirit here, blending the right combination of humility and fact to recount a career in which this first Jewish baseball star was considered not only the greatest and most powerful right-handed hitter in the major leagues but a successful baseball general manager and investment broker as well. He seems comfortable with the life he led, not disturbed by the reactions his being a Jew brought out in his contemporaries on the field and in the stands and explaining how he turned anti-Semitic incidents into positive motivational responses on his part rather than striking back in other ways. Because he died before the book was finished, Berkow, sportswriter for the New York Times , has filled gaps with interviews with Greenberg's family and contemporaries. Their memories lack the balance the baseball star's own text possesses and the prose becomes syrupy and muddling. Luckily these added reminiscences occupy little space.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Baseball Hall of Famer Greenberg died before he could finish this autobiography. Luckily, journalist Berkow agreed to complete it, skillfully filling in gaps in the story through the use of interviews and contemporary newspaper accounts. Born and raised in the shadows of Yankee Stadium, Greenberg was a star slugger for the Detroit Tigers from 1933 to 1947 and was the first player to challenge Babe Ruth's single-season record of 60 home runs, hitting 58 in 1938. The fact that he was one of the first Jewish major leaguers affected his entire career as he answered anti-Semitic critics with the crack of his bat. A fine tribute to a fine human being as well as a star ballplayer.
- Jo DeLapo, Queens Lib., N.Y.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (May 13, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812917413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812917413
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,192,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K.A.Goldberg on April 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This revealing autobiography of slugger Hank Greenberg (1911-1986) makes for excellent reading. Greenberg was baseball's first Jewish superstar, a massive (6-4, 215 lbs), popular, intelligent player. Greenberg's immigrant parents disliked his decision to play baseball, but by the mid-1930's he was slugging the Detroit Tigers to pennants and his mother found herself a celebrity in her mostly-Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx. Greenberg's popularity probably reduced the amount of anti-Semitic abuse he faced - abuse that he often answered with his bat. Greenberg lost nearly five seasons to military service during World War II, and he left the game after 1947 to become a talented baseball executive and later an investment broker. All is described in these readable pages, along with Greenberg's views on famous controversies. Did opposing hurlers purposely walk him as he closed in on Babe Ruth's home run record in 1938? Was he unfairly drafted prior to Pearl Harbor? Should he play on major Jewish holidays? His answers ("no") are given at length. In his last year with Pittsburgh, Greenberg also encouraged a rookie named Jackie Robinson who faced similar but much greater abuse.

Greenberg was intelligent, dedicated, and surprisingly modest. He passed away before this book was finished, at which point journalist Ira Berkow filled in the gaps with interviews and anecdotes. This is an intelligent and readable biography about one of baseball's most impressive men.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Konrei on October 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Play "Fill In The Blanks" and say, "Hammerin' Hank ___________," and many baseball fans will answer (correctly) "Aaron." Others will answer (just as correctly) "Greenberg," for before there was Hammerin' Hank Aaron of the Braves there was Hammerin' Hank Greenberg (1911-1986) of the Tigers. Greenberg played baseball for the Tigers in the mid-1930s to mid-1940s, and is considered by many pundits to be the third greatest hitter in baseball history, after Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. With 58 homers in 1938, he nearly matched the Babe's single season home run record of 60; with 182 RBIs in 1937, he nearly matched the Iron Horse's record of 183. A target of vicious abuse because of his ethnicity, he has been compared to Jackie Robinson as well.

To call Greenberg "the Jewish Jackie Robinson" however, is not entirely accurate. Although baseball could never have been identified as a "Jewish" sport (as were basketball and boxing at various times), Jews have played baseball professionally since the inception of the game. Baseball has always been dominated by men with rural backgrounds. Many Jewish players changed their names in the era of Restriction---Johnny Cooney was Jacob Cohen off the field---but Jews did take a small but active role in our National Pastime, nonetheless.

Few Jewish players were as conspicuous as Greenberg, however, and none had yet made the Hall of Fame. A prodigious hitter, the 6-4, 215 lb. Greenberg was hard to miss. In an era of unrestrained "bench jockeying," Greenberg was a favored target. Bench jockeys played a nasty but effective role in keeping opposing players off-balance by yelling all kinds of obscenities and epithets from the dugout.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A.J.S. on December 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ira Berkow did a great job writing about Hank Greenberg's life. He has written several books on sport figures. Because of his career as a sport writer and book reviewer I feel he did a nice job with interviewing people and getting information about Hank Greenberg. The book takes a great look at Hank Greenberg life with all his accomplishments. Not only should it be read by every Tiger fan but also every baseball fans in general. Although he missed time through injuries, military service, and early retirement, Greenberg still ranks as one of the most fearsome sluggers in baseball history. The powerful right-hander played only the equivalent of nine and a half seasons, yet produced outstanding career totals as well as exceptional season marks. A native New Yorker, Greenberg was the son of Rumanian born Jewish immigrants who owned a successful cloth shrinking plant. Hank graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx, the attended New York University on an athletic scholarship for one semester before beginning his professional baseball career. The 6'4 215 lb. Greenberg's athletic success stemmed from size, strength, and hard work, more than native talent. His high school coach explained: "Hank was so big for his age and so awkward that he became painfully self conscious. The fear of being made to look foolish drove him to practice constantly and, as a result, to overcome his handicaps." Greenberg also took a lot of cruel comments about his religion which made him even a stronger person. He played for the majors from 1933 - 1947 first with the Detroit Tigers and one year with Pittsburgh Pirates. One of the most important decision he had to make was whether to play on a Jewish holiday. He choose not to and that was a very important statement about his heritage.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on January 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Hank Greenberg's parents and the people of his neighborhood thought he would be a 'bum' because all he wanted to do was play ball. As a child and young man he played and practiced. And awkward because of his unusual height and size he in a way hid from the world by being on the ballfield. As a result of this practice he became one of the greatest right- hand hitters the game ever saw, and the first great Jewish baseball star.

This book tells his story with clarity, and frankness. It very much captures the spirit of a more innocent time. It too is an example of the American dream come true, of how through hard work and application one can rise to the top.

Greenberg missed four years of his career because of the Second World War but when he came home he again led his team to a world - championship.

He also proved himself a person of character in the way he dealt with the many insults he received from other ballplayers. He used them to help further motivate himself to excellence on the playing field.

His parents again feared that he would become a 'bum'. But instead he proved to be one of the greatest long-ball hitters the game has ever seen.
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