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The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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(Oct 16, 2001)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

As baseball's first Jewish star, Hammerin' Hank Greenberg's career contains all the makings of a true American sucess story. An extraordinary ball player notorious for his hours of daily practice, Greenberg's career was an inspiration to all and captured the headlines and the admiration of sportswriters and fans alike. This is the story of how he became an American hero.

Aviva Kempner's Peabody Award-winning documentary is about baseball like Field of Dreams is about cornfields. Kempner efficiently covers all the bases of Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg's magnificent career with archival footage and talking heads, including family members, former teammates and baseball legends, broadcasters and sportswriters, and such unabashed fans as Alan Dershowitz and Walter Matthau. If this biography's style is not remarkable, its subject certainly was. Greenberg, the son of immigrant parents, was a beacon of hope to Jews. As one observer notes, baseball was a way of "showing we were as American as everybody else." To see one of their own succeed in the national pastime at a time of virulent anti-Semitism was a source of pride and inspiration. One lifelong fan, a rabbi, states, "He was the baseball Moses." Winner of several critics association awards for Best Documentary, this is a stirring film for all seasons. --Donald Liebenson

Special Features

  • Additional interviews with Detroit Tigers fans, former teammates, and celebrities
  • Hank Greenberg biography and stats
  • Filmmaker's biography
  • Reviews
  • Director's notes

Product Details

  • Actors: Reeve Brenner, Hank Greenberg, Walter Matthau, Alan M. Dershowitz, Carl Levin
  • Directors: Aviva Kempner
  • Writers: Aviva Kempner
  • Producers: Aviva Kempner, Ari Daniel Pinchot
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: October 16, 2001
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005NTOI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,178 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 11, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
If the point of "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" is lost on the viewer, then history itself put the writing on the wall when the owner of the Detroit Tigers misunderstood the meaning of an old photograph of Greenberg and traded his star to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1947 season. Greenberg's last season in the baseball was Jackie Robinson's first, and Greenberg was in the National League to witness it first hand. Not surprisingly, Greenberg was one of the few opposing ball players to offer Robinson encouragement in breaking baseball's color line. But then, as this 1999 documentary proved repeatedly, no white player in the history of the game had been subjected to the abuse Greenberg suffered because his was Jewish. Without a doubt Robinson suffered more, maybe even more that first season than Greenberg his entire career. But this documentary also shows that Greenberg was as important to the American Jewish community as Jackie was to African Americans.
I remembered that Greenberg was the first person to win the MVP award at two different positions and that in 1935 he had 100 R.B.I.'s at the break and was not selected for the All-Star team (Manager Mickey Cochrane did not want to be accused of playing favorites with someone from his own team and picked Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx instead). But what I really picked up from this documentary was how good Greenberg made the Detroit Tigers during his career. If you look at his career batting statistics you will see that Greenberg played eight full seasons and batted in over 100 runs seven times for the Tigers between 1933 and 1946 (several seasons were lost to injury and military service). The Tigers played in the World Series in 1934, 1935, 1940, and 1945, and Greenberg was the common denominator for those teams.
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Format: DVD
have to admit it, before watching Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, I really didn't know that much about Hank Greenberg. I of course had heard his name mentioned as 'one of the greats' and I had heard that he was one of the first openly Jewish ballplayers to play baseball, but I really knew very little about his life story. As with many great documentaries, after watching Life and Times of Hank Greenberg I now feel like I really know the whole Hank Greenberg story, and it is a pretty amazing story.
Greenberg played at a time where there simply weren't openly Jewish ballplayers. And while Hank wasn't a deeply religious person, he didn't (like some) conceal the fact he was Jewish. Hank Greenberg is known both for standing up in the face of bigotry as well as being an amazing ballplayer. Playing for the Detroit Tigers for the majority of his career, Hank Greenberg was the first player in the American League to receive the MVP award twice. In 1938 he came amazingly close to breaking Babe Ruth's single season home run record 23 years before it was broken by Roger Marris.
Life and Times of Hank Greenberg is a loving tribute to a man who didn't let bigotry get in the way of his love for baseball and never stopped giving it his all. The documentary was produced over the course of 12 years and features interviews with Hank (who is no longer living), as well as many of the ball players and children of the people he played with. Watching a movie like Life and Times of Hank Greenberg really gives you a glimpse into what makes baseball America's pasttime and something that has the ability to create legends. If you're a baseball fan I'd highly recommend you check out Life and Times of Hank Greenberg - it's a fantastic documentary.
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
I grew up in a Jewish household in the 1960s, well after Greenberg's playing days but he still was an icon for me. The film touches on a lot of points: biography, sports in America, institutionalized anti-Semitism and racism. Yet the viewer is never overwhelmed; this film really evokes a man, an era and a unique look at a unique American legend. My only quibble: I wish it had been longer and delved into Greenberg's efforts at desegregating professional baseball after his playing days.
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Format: DVD
This film doesn't back even a quarter inch from being a documentary of a great Jewish ballplayer. The opening theme song is "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in Yiddish. It sets the tone for the whole film in perfect fashion.

One of my professors in grad school explained to me how he changed his name as a grad student in the 1930s in order to "pass" as what we would now call WASP in order to escape the "Jew quotas" placed against the hiring of too many Jewish professors. Today we forget just how anti-Semitic much of the United States was before World War II and beyond. As this documentary points out, this was especially true in Detroit, where America's premiere industrial anti-Semite, Henry Ford, held sway. The film mentions but does not expand upon Ford's anti-Semitic activity, which included paying for the printing and distribution of the wretched forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," one of the most racist rags ever penned. This provides the social and historical background for this marvelous documentary history of the great Hank Greenberg, the first professional baseball star to openly embrace his ethnic background. He thus served as the Jackie Robinson of the Jews in the thirties. But there was a slight difference. Though African-Americans were discriminated against and subjugated to terrible racial injustice, there was a sense in which they were undeniably American. Jews, however, at the time enjoyed an almost outsider status, not really Americans, more in the nature of displaced Europeans. Greenberg, however, was not just a Jewish sports star, but a star in the great American game of baseball.
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