Hank Greenberg The Hero Who Didn't Want to Be One Mark Kurlansky

Series:
Jewish Lives
Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
29 Mar 2011
ISBN:
9780300136609
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
192 pages: 210 x 140 x 17mm
Illustrations:
1 b-w illus.

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One of the reasons baseball fans so love the sport is that it involves certain physical acts of beauty. And one of the most beautiful sights in the history of baseball was Hank Greenberg's swing. His calmly poised body seemed to have some special set of springs with a trigger release that snapped his arms and swept the bat through the air with the clean speed and strength of a propeller. But what is even more extraordinary than his grace and power is that in Detroit of 1934, his swing - or its absence - became entwined with American Jewish history.

Though Hank Greenberg was one of the first players to challenge Babe Ruth's single-season record of sixty home runs, it was the game Greenberg did not play for which he is best remembered. With his decision to sit out a 1934 game between his Tigers and the New York Yankees because it fell on Yom Kippur, Hank Greenberg became a hero to Jews throughout America. Yet, as Kurlansky writes, he was the quintessential secular Jew, and to celebrate him for his loyalty to religious observance is to ignore who this man was.

In Hank Greenberg the best-selling author Mark Kurlansky explores the truth behind the quiet slugger's legend: his Bronx boyhood in Crotona Park East, his spectacular discipline as an aspiring ballplayer, the complexity of his decision not to play on Yom Kippur, and the cultural context of virulent anti-Semitism - Detroit was the city of Father Coughlin and Henry Ford - in which his career played out. What Kurlansky discovers is a man of immense dignity and restraint with a passion for sport who became a great reader of history and biography - a man, too, who was an inspiration to the young Jackie Robinson. As Robinson said, 'Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg'.

Mark Kurlansky has written, edited, or contributed to twenty books, which have been translated into twenty-five languages and won numerous prizes. His previous books Cod, Salt, 1968, and The Food of a Younger Land were all New York Times best-sellers.

"No baseball player has ever had a swing quite like the Detroit Tigers' Hank Greenberg. His unique athletic ability made hitting a baseball look smooth and effortless. Though Hank Greenberg was one of the first players to challenge Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, he may be more remembered for a game he did not play. In 1934 in a game with the New York Yankees Greenberg chose not to play because the game fell on Yom Kippur. Almost instantly he became a hero to Jews throughout America. Kurlansky's concise book describes Greenberg as the quintessential secular Jew, and argues to celebrate him for his loyalty to religious observance is to ignore the true man."—The Library of Michigan, Notable Books Award Panel