Amid the rising anti-Semitism of the 1930s, Hank Greenberg's baseball heroics took on symbolic meaning for many Jewish Americans. He was the first baseball star to enter the military in World War II, doing so voluntarily. On the field he overcame several injuries to lead the American League in homers three times, including 58 circuit blows in 1938. On the final day of the 1945 season, having returned from the war just weeks earlier, Greenberg hit a grand slam in the ninth inning that clinched the pennant for the Detroit Tigers.
#7 (1933), #5 (1934-1941, 1945-1947)
They wanted to get Rudy York into their lineup, so Detroit moved Hank to left field in 1940. When Detroit sold him to Pittsburgh in 1947, they moved outfielder Roy Cullenbine to first base to fill Hank's shoes. When Greenberg retired from the Pirates in 1948, the Bucs replaced him at first with "Big Ed" Stevens, who hit a grand total of 28 homers in his six-year career.
Greenberg had several spectacular seasons, including 1934 when he hit 63 doubles and batted .339, and 1935 when he batted .328 with 98 extra-base hits and 170 RBI, and 1937 when he drove in 183 runs, scored 137, belted 103 extra-base hits, and batted .337. Or what about 1940? He batted .340 with a .670 slugging percentage, 50 doubles, and 41 homers, and 150 RBI. But 1938 stands out because of the 58 home runs, the second highest total to that point in history. Greenberg blasted two more into a screen that wasn't there when Ruth hit his 60 in 1927, so with a little luck and some help from the engineers, Hank may have tied the record. He also had a homer washed out in a rain game. Greenberg's doubles turned into homers in '38 (he hit just 23 two-baggers), but he still drove in 146. He also walked 119 times and posted a career-high .683 SLG.
In 1937, Hank Greenberg fell one RBI short of Lou Gehrig’s AL record of 184. In 1938, Hank came within two home runs of the then single-season record of 60 set by Babe Ruth.
January 18, 1947: Purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Detroit Tigers.
Hit his 300th home run on September 17, 1946. Had he not missed three full seasons and parts of two others to World War II, he likely would have hit 500 homers.
Greenberg's Best Day in the Big Leagues
Greenberg's grand slam on the final day of the 1945 season against the St. Louis Browns won the American League pennant for the Tigers. The blast came in the top of the ninth and eliminated the Washington Senators, who had finished their season a week earlier due to scheduling conflicts with pro football. The Tigers had trailed 3-2 before loading the bases to set up the dramatic homer by Greenberg, which is perhaps the most historic home run in Detroit Tiger history.
In 1947, the Pirates moved their left field fence in to accommodate their new slugger Hank Greenberg. The resulting area beyond the fence was known as "Greenberg Gardens". The 36-year old slugger hit 25 home runs that season, his last.
Hired by Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck in 1948, Hank Greenberg soon became the Indians' general manager. While with Cleveland, Greenberg helped lead the campaign to integrate baseball, won AL pennants in 1948 and 1954, and set attendance records. Following Veeck to Chicago, Greenberg joined the White Sox in 1958 as part-owner and vice-president. In 1959, the White Sox won their first AL pennant in 40 years. After severing his relationship with the White Sox in 1961, Hank became a successful investment banker in New York City and later moved to Beverly Hills, California. He was one of baseball's most successful ex-players.
Most Consecutive Games with an Extra-Base Hit
14 - Paul Waner, PIT NL, 6/3/1927-6/19/1927 14 - Chipper Jones, ATL NL, 6/26/2006-7/16/2006 12 - Tip O'Neill, STL AA, 8/24/1887-9/5/1887 12 - Rogers Hornsby, BOS NL, 5/27/1928(G1)-6/9/1928(G1) 11 - Rogers Hornsby, STL NL, 8/20/1924(G1)-8/27/1924 11 - Hank Greenberg, DET AL, 9/4/1940-9/14/1940 11 - Bob Bailey, MON NL, 6/22/1970(G2)-7/12/1970 11 - Jesse Barfield, TOR AL, 8/17/1985-8/27/1985 11 - Bobby Abreu, PHI NL, 5/7/2005-5/18/2005 11 - Alex Rodriguez, NY AL, 9/29/2006-4/11/2007
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- 1934 World Series, 1935 World Series, 1956 Hall of Fame, AL MVP 1935, AL MVP 1940, Baseball History, Beaumont Bullfrogs, Detroit Tigers, Hank Greenberg, Texas League, WWII, firstbase