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The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg

1 rating: 5.0
A movie directed by Aviva Kempner

Following the career of Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg from his beginnings in the Bronx to his success in the Texas minor leagues to his signing to the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s, this documentary recounts the inspirational tale of an American … see full wiki

Director: Aviva Kempner
Genre: Documentary
Release Date: January 12, 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg

Life and Times of Hank Greenberg - 1998

  • Dec 13, 2008
Pros: ...

Cons: ...

The Bottom Line:
"when Hank gets home run itch, Ball,
you're going to drop a stitch
so goodBye Mr ball, goodBye"
~Bill Coryn and Harold Smith

As famous as Jackie Robinson is for breaking the white line of baseball, Hank Greenberg crossed the line well before Robinson was ever heard of in baseball lore.  Although Greenberg was a white man he had another stigma, he was Jewish.  In the 30's it was unheard of for a Jewish man to enter a field that had primarily been held by the Irish as their field of play.  In fact, Hank Greenberg faced almost the entire first year of his career listening to the barrage of anti-Semitic comments called from the stands when he stepped up to the plate.  Had it not been for his own forgiving nature, and his incredible baseball technique, life could have been quite miserable for Hank Greenberg.

Writer/director Aviva Kempner gives us the real inside story of the Life and Times of Hank Greenberg in this documentary.  It is full of live film footage of ball games, in-depth interviews with fans and family, friends and foes.   Included, as well, is a lot of footage of Greenberg on and off the field, and long after his career in baseball had ended.  It was very interesting to hear his stories both from his point of view as well as those on the perimeter of his life.

Rabbi's told of how inspirational his rise to fame was for not only them but also the entire small group of Jewish boys who previously had no heroes to worship.  His children recounted stories from their lives; fellow ball payers told of greatness and failures.  His dedication to his faith was covered, including his refusal to play on Yom Kippur, although the Tigers were in mid-pennant races.  His one bleak point was while serving in the Army during WWII as he realized that religion meant little on the battle line where all differences were forgotten and everyone joined together for the same cause.

Hank Greenberg was the first player to approach Jackie Robinson, the only one knowing from personal experience the Hell Robinson was facing, and offered his advice to hold on, things would improve.  I personally knew nothing about Hank Greenberg before viewing this film.  After watching it, I realized I had watched the story of one of the few true heroes of the baseball field.  A man that did not comprise his own beliefs for the bottom line and that played baseball with the love and dedication that the sport demands.

Just a few facts about Greenberg's career:
He was 6'4", a virtual giant for a Jewish man, weighing 215 pounds
Detroit Tigers: 1933-1941, 1944-1946 [absence for WWII]
Pittsburg Pirates: 1947
Games: 1394
At bats: 5193
Runs: 1051
Hits: 1628
HR's:  331
RBI's:  1276
SB:  58
All Star Team: 1937, 1938, 1940
AL MVP: 1935, 1940
Baseball Hall of Fame: 1956
GM Cleveland Indians: 1948-57
VP Chicago White Sox: 1959-63
Most of his records went untouched until the Sosa/McGwire/Bonds era

As a first baseman, sometimes outfielder, he was ungangly.  His style at the plate wasn't pretty, his strike-outs an embarrassment to watch.  He lumbered around the bases like a large animal.  But when he was on cue, when the ball spoke to him, he could sail that leather out of the park like it was a feather.  The sound of his bat on the ball quieted the harassing crowds as Greenberg carried the Tigers to more than one victory.

This film carries a PG rating for the understandable thematic elements and language.  It was nominated for 16 awards, winning 12.  If you have any interest in baseball at all, this is a great film to watch and catch how the foundations of baseball were erected, one hit at a time.



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Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
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