Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army Air Forces 1
Rank:
Captain 1
Birth:
New York City, NY 1
Death:
04 Sep 1986 1
Beverly Hills CA 1
More…

Related Pages

+
View more similar pages

Pictures & Records (2)

Add Show More

Personal Details

Edit
Full Name:
Hyman Benjamin Greenberg 1
Also known as:
Hank Greenberg "Hammerin' Hank," "Hankus Pankus" or "The Hebrew Hammer," 1
Full Name:
Henry Greenberg 2
Birth:
New York City, NY 1
Male 1
Birth:
01 Jan 1911 2
Death:
04 Sep 1986 1
Beverly Hills CA 1
Cause: Cancer 1
Death:
Sep 1986 2
Residence:
Last Residence: Beverly Hills, CA 2
Edit
Birth:
Mother: Sarah Greenberg 1
Father: David Greenberg 1
Edit

World War II 1

Branch:
Army Air Forces 1
Rank:
Captain 1
Edit
Occupation:
Baseball 1
Religion:
Jewish 1
Race or Ethnicity:
Jewish 1
Social Security:
Card Issued: California 2
Social Security Number: ***-**-2215 2

Looking for more information about Henry Greenberg?

Search through millions of records to find out more.

Stories

Hank Greenberg, First $100,000 Player, Dies

 

  Hank Greenberg, the first baseball player to earn $100,000 a year and the first Jewish member of the baseball Hall of Fame, died Thursday at his home in Beverly Hills after a 13-month illness with cancer. He was 75.

Greenberg was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1935 as a first baseman and again in 1940 as a left fielder with the Detroit Tigers. Although he had a batting average of .313 for 13 major league seasons, Hammering Hank, as he was called, was best known as a home run hitter.

In 1938, Greenberg hit 58 home runs, challenging Babe Ruth's record of 60. He hit his 58th with seven games to play. Only Jimmie Foxx of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1932 with 58, Roger Maris of the New York Yankees, who broke Ruth's record with 61 in 1961, and Ruth hit as many or more home runs in a season as Greenberg.

A right-handed hitter who stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed 215 pounds, Greenberg hit more than 30 home runs in six seasons and led the American League five times. He finished his career with 331 homers. In 1937, he drove in 183 runs, only one shy of the league record at the time. It was one of seven times he drove in more than 100 runs.

An unselfish player, Greenberg was an all-league first baseman when he moved to the outfield in 1940 to make room for heavy-hitting Rudy York at first base. He was named to the all-league team as an outfielder and became the first player to be named MVP at two positions.

Greenberg played 13 of his 14 seasons with Detroit, starting in 1933, but he ended his career in 1947 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who paid him $100,000. At 36, however, he was hampered by bone chips in his right elbow, hit only 25 home runs and drove in only 74 runs. He retired at the end of the year.

The following season he became part owner of the Cleveland Indians, where he was an executive until 1958, when he became vice president of the Chicago White Sox for two years.

Greenberg also played in four World Series for Detroit, batting .318, hitting five home runs and driving in 22 runs in 23 games in 1934, 1935, 1940 and 1945.

At the peak of his career, Greenberg missed four seasons while serving in World War II.

He was drafted early in 1941 but was discharged in seven months under a provision allowing anyone over 28 to get out of the service. Two days later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Greenberg immediately re-enlisted and rose to the rank of captain in the Army Air Corps, earning four battle stars. He served in China and participated in the first land-based bombing of Japan in 1944. He was discharged in 1945.

When he returned to baseball midway through the 1945 season, he was named comeback player of the year for his late-season heroics.

Greenberg hit a grand slam against the St. Louis Browns to clinch the American League pennant for the Tigers on the final day of the season. In the World Series, which Detroit won in seven games over the Chicago Cubs, Greenberg had two home runs and three doubles among his seven hits.

Greenberg, the first Jewish star in baseball, created a stir in Detroit in 1934, his second season in the big leagues, when he observed Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. The Tigers were involved in a tight pennant race with the Yankees and lost the day Greenberg was absent. The Tigers won the pennant, however, as Greenberg, batting cleanup, finished with a .339 average.

In 1956 he was elected to the Hall of Fame. At his induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., he said: "In all my years of being on the playing field, I never dreamed that this would be the final result. I can't possibly express how I feel. It's just too wonderful for words. I'm deeply grateful and humble for this great honor. I guess this is what every ballplayer dreams about but never hopes to achieve."

After retiring from baseball, Greenberg became a familiar figure on the senior tennis circuit, winning a number of celebrity tournaments and playing regularly with entertainers at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club.

He was born Henry Benjamin Greenberg Jan. 1, 1911, in the Bronx, New York City. His father, a Hungarian immigrant, ran a successful business in the textile district.

In 1946 Greenberg married department store heiress Caral Gimbel, from whom he was divorced in 1959. They had three children, sons Glenn and Stephen and daughter Alva. He later remarried and is survived by his wife, Mary Jo, his three children, two brothers, a sister and eight grandchildren.

Hank Greenberg

Tall, awkward, and lumbering--that's how many baseball scouts saw Hank Greenberg. What they didn't see was a man determined to become the best person he could. Through hard work and faith in himself, Greenberg became a star baseball player and a success in all other aspects of his life.

Henry Benjamin Greenberg was born to Rumanian Jewish immigrants on New Year's Day, 1911, in Greenwich Village, New York. His father and mother met in America and were married in New York. Initially, the family lived in tenements on Barrow Street and then Perry Street. Hank had two brothers, Benjamin, four years older, and Joseph, five years younger, and a sister, Lillian, two years older. By the time Hank was six, his father's business had grown enough to enable them to move to the Crotona Park section of the Bronx. His father, David, owned a small textile mill where material was shrunk in order to make suits, and his mother, Sarah (nee Schwartz), was a housewife. The family's life in Crotona Park was peaceful and uneventful. Since it was a predominantly Jewish section, Greenberg knew practically nothing of anti-Semitism. Hank attended P.S. 44 public school. His parents wanted him to be a professional man, a doctor or lawyer, but he loved baseball and became a professional baseball player. All of his siblings graduated from college and became professional people. The neighbors called him a bum because of his baseball playing and clucked their tongues when they spoke of Mrs. Greenberg and her son Henry. Hank was 6' 3" by the time he was a teenager, but he was skinny and awkward.

He took to sports with a vengeance. Nicknamed "Big Bruggy" while a student at James Monroe High School, Greenberg became an outstanding athlete in baseball, basketball (he led his basketball team to a New York City title in 1929) and soccer.

Baseball was his passion, though. To find Hank, all one had to do was to go to the Crotona Park recreation field to watch him swing at pitch after pitch until his hands blistered.

When Greenberg joined the Tigers in 1933, he immediately ran into tough times. Bucky Harris, the manager, refused to play Greenberg because he favored Harry Davis, a slick fielding but light hitting first baseman. The Tigers had paid $75,000 for Davis. Harris was determined that Davis was going to be the first baseman. Harris placed Greenberg at third base with disastrous results. Greenberg, unhappy with the situation, went to Frank Navin, the fair and popular owner of the Tigers. Listening quietly, Navin told Hank that he would bat against left-handed pitching and Davis would bat against right-handed pitching. When Harris refused to do this, Navin phoned down to Harris and told him in no uncertain terms that Greenberg was to bat against left-handed pitching. Harris complied. Hank, playing in 117 games, batted .301, hit 12 homers and drove in 87 runs.

During the 1934 season Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, took place in September when the Tigers were chasing the pennant. Greenberg was in a quandary whether or not to play on that religious day. He consulted a rabbi, who told him it was permissible to play. He pounded out two homers that day to win the game 2-1. However, when Yom Kippur arrived, Hank did not play

Greenberg, in 1935, slugged 36 homers, drove in 170 runs and helped the Tigers to return to the Fall Classic against the Chicago Cubs. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the American League that season.

During the 1938 season Greenberg was in pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record of 60. During his chase, he had multiple homers in one game 11 times, a record. With five games left in the season Greenberg had 58 homers, but he failed to hit another one

When the Japanese bombed the US navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Shortly thereafter, Greenberg enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to Officers Training School. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a First Lieutenant. At first, he did inspection work at air bases and then requested a transfer to a war zone. He was sent to the China-Burma-India Theater and was part of the first B-29 unit to go overseas and flew on missions over the Himalayas, affectionately known as the "Hump." Greenberg was recalled from China in the middle of 1944. Sicily had been liberated and the Italians had surrendered. The Nazis were being driven back on all fronts, and the Japanese were giving up, island after island. Greenberg was reassigned to an outfit in New York at 44 Broad Street. The war was coming to an end in Europe, and the Nazis surrendered on May 7, 1945. Halfway through the 1945 season, Greenberg was released from the Air Force with the rank of Captain, four battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. Hank had hardly swung a bat for four and one-half years.

In the 1945 World Series, the Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs in seven games. Greenberg hit .304, drove in seven runs and homered twice.

On February 19, 1946, Hank Greenberg married Caral Lasker Gimbel, heiress to department store millions, in the living room of County Ordinary Edwin W. Dart in Brunswick, Georgia. They had eloped to avoid a big wedding because the Gimbel and Greenberg families, coming from vastly different levels of society, did not mix well, and the marriage ended in divorce.

Greenberg retired at the end of the 1947 season. Old injuries were affecting his play. The bone chips in his elbow were extremely bothersome. After his retirement, he had them removed. His career totals for nine and one half years were impressive: 1628 hits, 1276 runs batted in, a .313 lifetime batting average, 331 homers, 1051 runs scored, 379 doubles, and an amazing .605 slugging average. But the most awesome statistic is his .92 runs batted in per game, tying him for the all-time lead with Lou Gehrig and Sam Thompson. Only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx were ahead of him in the all-time slugging percentage department. 

 Greenberg retired to Beverly Hills, California. There, he lived the good life and became a star amateur tennis player, winning many titles. He married Mary Jo Tarola, a minor movie actress, (known on screen as Linda Douglas) in Beverly Hills on November 18, 1966. Mary Jo appeared in three movies but did not relish being a movie actress. She was content with being Hank's wife.

  Hank Greenberg died September 4 1986 of cancer, and was interred at Hilside Memorial Park in Culver City California

About this Memorial Page

×