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Medal by Hal Reed (1991), Hank Greenberg, Baseball Hall of Famer.

Hank Greenberg (1911-1986)

Henry Benjamin Greenberg was born in New York City on January 1, 1911. In 1925, 14 year old Greenberg was a player on the Washington Avenue Annex Settlement House baseball team, which won the Bronx championship. Years later, Greenberg won a scholarship to New York University, but he quit after his first term to play baseball full time.

Hank joined the Detroit Tigers in 1933 as a first baseman, and helped them win their first American League pennant in 25 years. The Tigers were champions again the following year, and Hank won the American League's Most Valuable Player award by a unanimous vote of the Baseball Writers Association; he won it again in 1940 after he had been switched to left field.

After Hank Greenberg declined to play in an important game on Yom Kippur in 1934, Edgar Guest published a poem, the last lines of which are: "We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat, but he's true to his religion - and I honor him for that."

As the first Jewish baseball star, Hank Greenberg had to handle racial slurs from fans and opponents alike. Birdie Tebbetts, a Detroit teammate of Greenberg's for seven seasons, recalled that, "There was nobody in the history of the game who took more abuse than Greenberg, unless it was Jackie Robinson."

Hank barely missed Babe Ruth's fabled record of 60 home runs, when he hit 58 in 1938. However, Greenberg did set a major league mark that year when he slammed two homers per game eleven times.

At the peak of his career, in 1941, Hank Greenberg was inducted into the US Army, saying "I never asked for a deferment. I made up my mind to go when I was called." Greenberg was also the first major leaguer to reenlist in the military following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Rejoining the Tigers after his discharge on June 14, 1945, in the heat of a pennant race, Hank hit a home run in his first game back, and blasted his famous grand slam home run in the last inning of the final game of the season. The man that Joe DiMaggio called "one of the truly great hitters," was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956.

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