By In 100 Greatest, Baseball

No. 74: Hank Greenberg

You probably know that the 1920s and 1930s marked a huge public spike in antisemitism in America. Between 1900 and 1924, with hostility toward Jews growing around the world, more than two million Jewish immigrants poured into America. The backlash was forceful. Immigration was cut way back. The Ku Klux Klan had a second life after many dormant years. Henry Ford published numerous anti-semitic screeds. Father Charles Coughlin blamed Jewish people for purposely causing the Depression on his popular and hateful weekly radio show. Charles Lindbergh — sometimes called the most famous man in America — was among many well-liked American figures to speak out against what he said was a subversive Jewish influence. Around this time, in a national poll, more than half of America agreed with the statement that “Jews are different and should be restricted.”

It was in this world that Hank Greenberg played baseball.

He was a tall and somewhat awkward man — John McGraw personally scouted him and decided he was simply too clumsy to play in the big leagues. McGraw underestimated Greenberg’s ferocious determination. His high school basketball coach Irwin Dickstein said, “Hank never played the games. He worked them.” Greenberg’s dedication was fierce and unyielding. He hit until his hands bled. He played games of pepper for eight-hours a day to improve his hand-eye coordination and nimbleness. He obsessively exercised, squeezing a rubber ball to strengthen his forearms, jumping rope to strengthen his flat feet, working again and again on what a track coach might call “explosion” — that is, getting off to fast starts out of the batters box. He molded himself into a ballplayer.

His family did not understand the baseball thing. His parents had emigrated separately from Romania, and they raised Henry (who was mostly known as “Hymie” as a child”) in an orthodox house where Yiddish was the main language spoken. His father, David, worked his way up from a worker in a textile factory up to owner of the factory, and even though he had a mild interest in baseball as a fan (he liked McGraw’s New York Giants) he did not see baseball as a viable career path. Hank himself expected eventually to go into his father’s business.

There were a few Jewish baseball players before Greenberg made it to the Majors in 1933 and no stars. In truth, there had never been an all-encompassing American Jewish sports star at all before him. There were some famous Jewish boxers — Benny Leonard and Battling Levinsky were two of the more prominent — but across the country boxing was viewed as corrupt and ethnic. Boxers were not often seen as heroes. Jewish and African American players dominated the early years of pro basketball, but the sport was barely a blip on the American scene. The overwhelming American sport was baseball, and Jews had almost no role in the game. The only time anyone seemed to talk about Jews and baseball was when referring to the gangster Arnold Rothstein’s role in fixing the 1919 World Series.

Greenberg hit .300 his rookie year but without much impact. He was still awkward, an ungainly fielder, and he hit just 12 homers. The Tigers were mediocre as usual. Greenberg came on the scene the next year when he had an astonishing 96 extra base hits including a league-leading 63 doubles. He became a national figure because the Detroit Tigers, for the first time in more than 20 years, had an actual pennant contender. The Tigers’ sudden prominence led to Greenberg’s religion twice becoming front page news.

1. On Sept. 10 that year, with the Tigers holding on to a four-game lead over the Yankees, Greenberg very publicly was trying to decide whether or not to play on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. He had promised his parents he would not play, but there was immense pressure. The Tigers needed him. According to John Rosengren’s book on Greenberg, rabbis were consulted in the papers, teammates and Tigers management pleaded with him. He decided, almost at the very last instant, to play.

In the seventh inning, with Detroit trailing Boston 1-0 and Red Sox pitcher Gordon Rhodes overwhelming Tigers hitters, Greenberg stepped in and hit a game-tying home run. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score still tied 1-1, Greenberg came up again and smashed a massive home run that one Detroit writer would say soared like a Bobby Jones drive. Greenberg was mobbed as he ran around the bases. Detroit fans happily shouted “Happy New Year!”

The moment was covered by a fascinated and somewhat overwrought national press. A man named Bud Shaver wrote this for the Detroit Times: “The traditional tenacity of the world’s oldest and most beleaguered people today had played its part in a pennant race … They were propelled by a force of desperation and pride of a young Jew who turned his back on the ancient ways of his race and creed to help his teammates.”

2. On Sept. 19, Greenberg did not play on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The situation was different — the day is considered much holier in the Jewish faith. And, being honest, t didn’t hurt that the Tigers had a 7 1/2 game lead on the Yankees with 11 games to play. Still, there was much written about this decision as well, the most famous of these being Edgar Guest’s poem “Speaking of Greenberg.” It ended like so:

Came Yom Kippur — holy fast day worldwide over to the Jew
And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true
Spent the day among his people and he didn’t come to play
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, “We shall lose the game today.
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.”

There have been numerous disagreements about Guest’s poem — whether it was entirely celebratory of Greenberg’s choice to sit out or slightly mocking. It’s also kind a lousy poem. But, no matter, it was reprinted everywhere and it cemented Greenberg’s fame. In the Henry Ford’s city and in a time when many people were speaking out against when they called the seditious influence of Jewish bankers worldwide and Jewish decision-makers in the FDR administration, Hank Greenberg became something new: An American Jewish sports star.

He was never entirely comfortable with his place as a Jewish hero. But he understood his responsibility. He dealt with intense scrutiny, constant name-calling, perpetual threats. And he hit. He always hit. In 1935, he won the MVP award after leading the league with 36 home runs and 170 RBIs. In 1937, he finished with 183 RBIs — one shy of Lou Gehrig’s American League record. He always regretted falling short on that record. He drove in six runs with two three-run homers on October 1 which gave him 181 RBIs and two games to play. But he went one for his last seven, with two RBIs.

In 1938, he chased Babe Ruth’s record of 60 homers. He had 58 home runs with five games to play. Greenberg would always admit to tensing up those last five games. The pressure was overwhelming and it came at him from all sides. Jewish fans — who had begun calling him the Jewish Babe Ruth — desperately wanted him to break the record. The news around the world, particularly, of course, in Nazi Germany, was bleak and growing bleaker daily and news of Hank Greenberg seemed like a life raft. Of course, in this nervous American time, man could barely imagine a Jew breaking the most prestigious record in sports. Greenberg was overwhelmed. He hit no home runs in the final five games — only once came close, a long double in Cleveland off 19-year-old Bob Feller — and Greenberg finished the season with 58 homers.

One month later came the news of Kristallnacht — the night of broken glass — where Jewish business and synagogues were attacked in Germany and Austria (the smashed windows gave the attack its name) and tens of thousands were sent to concentration camps. This was when many historians would say the Holocaust began. There were two more years or relative baseball normalcy in America. In 1939, Greenberg hit .312/.420/.622. In 1940, he won his second MVP award by leading the league in doubles, homers, RBIs, slugging and total bases. And that would be his last full season in the big leagues until he was 35 years old.

Greenberg was the first big baseball star to be drafted — he was actually drafted several months BEFORE Pearl Harbor. There was some confusion about Greenberg’s reaction to the draft and whether or not he asked for a deferment. Greenberg always said he did not, but there were various reports in newspapers that he had. His military questionnaire, which was supposed to be confidential, was leaked. He was bombarded by reporters questions. He turned inward. When he showed up for his military physical, a photographer took his picture. “I should punch you in the nose,” Greenberg reportedly snarled. The doctor found that Greenberg had flat feet, which only heated the controversy and the hate mail. One newspaper editor reportedly circled Greenberg’s feet and scribbled $25,000 — Greenberg’s salary at the time.

He was ordered to to report on May 7, 1941 — one week before Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak began, long before Bob Feller, Ted Williams or DiMaggio would report. He would miss the next four and a half years for World War II.

Greenberg was not the same player after the war. His body was beat up. Nothing had ever come easily for him. He would have one more fantastic season — he led the American League in home runs and RBIs in 1946. Then, at the end of the season, he heard that on the radio that the Tigers had sold him to Pittsburgh. He was shocked. A few days earlier — on Greenberg’s 36th birthday no less — there was a story in The Sporting News that Greenberg would like to finish his career with the Yankees. More powerfully, there was a photograph of Greenberg holding up a Yankees uniform. Greenberg would always say he had not wanted to go to New York. And the photo was supposedly taken in 1943, before a War Bond game when it was the only uniform available.

None of these details mattered much to Tigers’ owner Walter Briggs, who did not get along with Greenberg anyway. He was outraged and sent Greenberg to Pittsburgh (technically, Greenberg was claimed on waivers by the Pirates but it was reported as a sale). Greenberg announced his retirement instead. He’d had enough.

The Pirates were frantic. The acquiring of Greenberg was the first bit of good news for the franchise in two decades. Ticket sales had jumped. Owner John Galbreath went to see Greenberg and pleaded with him. Well, he more than pleaded. He gave Greenberg the biggest and most luxurious contract in the history of the game up to that point. He made Greenberg the first $100,000 player in baseball history. He promised that Greenberg would not have a roommate on the road and could fly on road trips instead of taking the bus. Greenberg’s wife was given a race horse. It was madness. And Greenberg could not refuse.

He hit just .249 through pain his one year with Pittsburgh, though it was not a complete loss. Greenberg did lead the league with 104 walks. Attendance almost doubled even though the Pirates lost 92 games. And Greenberg reportedly played a major role in helping a 24-year-old Ralph Kiner, who hit 51 home runs and led the league in slugging. After that, he retired for good. He was 37 years old.

Greenberg would continue a life in baseball, eventually becoming the general manager of the Cleveland Indians. His personality did not fit the job. He fired manager and Cleveland hero Lou Boudreau because of philosophical differences, feuded some with Larry Doby and lost brilliant young shortstop Luis Aparicio over a few hundred dollars. Bill James has speculated — and I think he’s probably right — that Greenberg played as large a role as anybody in Cleveland’s decline as a baseball organization in the 1960s. He was briefly general manager of the Chicago White Sox and then became a successful investment banker.

Greenberg was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956, his eighth time on the ballot. It’s hard to say what took so long. He remains one of only five players to finish a career with .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage (Ruth, Foxx, Williams and Gehrig are the others). Maybe the shortness of his career hurt him — even if it was mostly due to the war — and there was some thought that he was not a great all-around player, though through his usual hard work he did make make himself into an adequate first baseman and even a tolerable outfielder (in 1945, in 72 games, in the outfield he did not commit an error).

More than anything, he was a pioneer. Baseball has had a handful of players in its history who transcended games and inspired people to perhaps expand their minds and open their worlds. Greenberg sometimes lamented that he had to carry this extra burden as a Jewish player, but he did carry it. One story, perhaps apocryphal, is that Georgian Jo Jo White once inspected Greenberg carefully, looking for horns. What is unquestionably true was that Greenberg and White became roommates and friends. “You’re just like everyone else,” White said to Greenberg, somewhat in wonder.

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58 Responses to No. 74: Hank Greenberg

  1. Rob Pittman says:

    Joe – I’m shocked you made know mention of Greenberg’s “other” profession.

  2. tombando says:

    The fact he was able to come back so well after missing 4.5 yrs just speaks to his greatness.

  3. blair says:

    you had me at 183 RBIs…

  4. murr2825 says:

    This piece is nominally about baseball, and that’s one of the reasons why this series is so outstanding; we hear about the person behind the numbers in a way that has seldom been done before.

  5. Jake Bucsko says:

    I knew all this already from a pamphlet I read on a plane once. Great piece, though.

  6. Matthew Clark says:

    This series shows so well that in a sport completely obsessed with statistics it is the stories of the people that are the most interesting. The magic of “what if? never ceases. Thank you.

  7. Nathan H says:

    Great post about one of my favorite historical players. There was a very good documentary made about him and his era, “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” definitely worth checking out.

  8. Steve says:

    Joe, you are a wonderful writer. This piece was beautiful.

  9. Rick R says:

    “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” was released in a Yiddish edition. I happen to know the man who did the Yiddish translation. He literally had to invent a whole glossary of Yiddish words and phrases to cover familiar baseball expressions like “Grand Slam”. That Yiddish simply had no place in its language for baseball shows how far removed the world Hank Greenberg excelled in was from the world he grew up in.

    • berkowit28 says:

      Thanks for this. About what year was it that this Yiddish version was made? I’m wondering at the size of the expected audience.

      • berkowit28 says:

        I see the original English-language version was released in 1998 (and now re-released on DVD this year). So it’s all quite recent. I see lots of references to screenings of the English-language version, including at the Yiddish Book Center in New York. I’m now quite curious about this Yiddish version and where it might have been shown.

  10. Michael Green says:

    It’s interesting that Bill Veeck was the one, I believe, who encouraged Greenberg to be part of management, and that Greenberg proved to be, as Joe says, inept at it. And Ralph Kiner himself says that Greenberg played a large role in his development.

  11. TWolf says:

    Greenberg may have had a prickly personality and may have been a tight wad, but it seems to me that his tenure as an executive with the Indians was a net positive. From 1951 to 1956 they finished either second to the Yankees, or won the pennant with 111 wins in 1954. During this period they were the only American league team that aggressively sought black players such as Luke Easter, Minnie Minoso, Sam Jones, Al Smith, and some lesser players. They also
    signed such talented players as Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Herb Score, Ray Narleski, and Don Mossi

    • Ian R. says:

      Sure, the Indians were pretty exceptional during Greenberg’s tenure as GM, but it’s tough to give him too much credit for that. Many of the best players on those teams (Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, Larry Doby) were acquired before he took over. After he left, the Indians collapsed, and it took them decades to get good again.

      It’s often misleading to judge a GM by the team’s record while he was on the job. Sometimes, the effects aren’t really felt until after he leaves.

      • I’ve found this to be true in all of business. I had a great boss who did tons of positive things, but the numbers never reflected it during his tenure. He got frustrated and left. The next guy in was a nice enough guy, but a lightweight who had no clue how to do such a big job. But the numbers popped as soon as he walked through the door. We all knew it was a lag effect from his predecessors efforts. However the new guy got all the credit and was promoted to an even higher position. He lasted about six months before being fired.

        In baseball, the lag effect is even more pronounced. A lot of guys you draft today won’t be even MLB rookies for 3-5 years. Teams like the Yankees can reload quickly (or not) with free agents, but most GMs win by drafting well, making sure to develop the talent and augmenting these efforts with a couple of good trades and free agent signings. A good GM probably needs 5 years for his efforts to bear fruit…. Or in Greenbergs case, for his lack of competency to show.

        • johnq11 says:

          Yeah, spot on Bellweather22.

          I worked in sales during the mid-late 90’s into the 2000’s and I’m reminded so much of what you’re talking about. So much of sales is dependent on just the economy and willingness of consumers to spend money yet you’re judged by a bottom line. And a lot of times that bottom line number is just some arbitrary number concocted by the higher ups.

          Case in point we had a sales manager who was literally one step away (a week maybe a month) from being fired around 1996 because his numbers were consistently down. He was a heck of a nice guy and worked hard but he was a convenient scape-goat and whipping boy. He knew his days were numbered and he was constantly living in fear & stress that he was about to get fired.

          Anyway, one woman got pregnant and went on maternity leave and another male manager quit unexpectedly so this manager was kept on out of necessity but put on probation.

          I’m not sure the timeline but this was during the late 90’s when the stock market was going up and people were spending money so this sales manager’s numbers starting going up. He literally did the same exact job as before but his numbers were better so they kept him. He did this until the stock market bubble burst around 2001.

          His numbers started to slip when the economy went down but he had solid numbers for 3-4 years so they kept him on but put him back on probation.

          The higher-ups either got fired, quit or moved so they kind of forgot about him so he lasted for another 4-5 years.

          The place went chapter 11 around 2008-2009 and he was still there and actually he was there the last day closing the building.

    • wordyduke says:

      Alas, Minoso and Jones were traded for very little and had their great years elsewhere. Ditto Ray Boone. Al Rosen retired at age 32 rather than accept the pay cut he was offered.

  12. rwh78 says:

    Loved this, and each of these Top 100 pieces.

    This is a great series, and no doubt would make a great book. People still buy books, right?

    Keep ’em coming, Joe!

  13. Cliff Blau says:

    Joe, you aren’t up on Herm Krabbenhoft’s research. Greenberg actually had 184 RBIs in 1937, which was one short of Lou Gehrig’s AL record.

  14. Evan says:

    I’d be curious to see someone make an educated guess at what Greenberg’s career home run numbers would look like if he played those 4 1/2 years during the war. Furthermore, one could question whether his career might have been longer had it not been interrupted (I suppose the reverse could also be true). As it is, his career OBP and slugging are quite an achievement.

    • John Gale says:

      Hard to say for sure because his HR numbers were a bit all over the place (in the three years before the war, he hit 58, 33 and 41 homers), but 35-40 homers per season seems about right. So that would be an extra 160-180 homers, which would get right around 500 homers for his career (which probably would have hastened his Hall of Fame election). And that’s really a fairly conservative estimate, so he could have been comfortably over 500. For WAR, 6-7 per season seems about right, so he’d have 85-90 (45th-50th) for his career.

      • Evan says:

        Thanks, John, those numbers look pretty reasonable. It does seem crazy that he had to wait 8 seasons for induction.

      • These numbers are good…. Maybe even conservative since he hit 45 at age 35 in his first full year back. He didn’t just miss 4 1/2 years, he missed at least two prime years, and indications are that the other 2 plus years would have been only slightly below prime. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he could have lost 200 HRs to his time in the service. Membership in the 500 club seems like a virtual lock to me.

  15. mrgjg says:

    Well considering Johnny Mize who had a 70.9 WAR had to wait for the Vet. vote to get in I don’t think 8 yrs. was so bad for Hank. Another of his comps Dick Allen who had a 58.7 WAR is still waiting.
    You’ve got to remember that during the years Greenberg was on the ballot, very few guys got in quickly. The voting was scattershot during those years.
    Please don’t misconstrue this as taking shots at Greenberg, he was a devastating hitter who belongs in the HOF. He lost almost 5 yrs. and still built a HOF career, but most sportswriters at the time didn’t pro-rate his lifetime numbers at what might have been if not for the war, and at face value, they didn’t scream HOF.
    They did the same to Mize who they never voted in.

    • I’ll bang on my Dick Allen drum again. The 58.7 WAR includes a -16 dWAR, which shows what a dominating hitter he was, and obviously what a terrible fielder he was. Sports writers that didn’t vote for him had no real knowledge of advanced stats such as WAR. So, although everyone knew Allen was not a good fielder, his defense was unlikely to have been much of a factor in the less than 20% support he received. It had more to do with the way Allen was difficult to deal with for the press. Not a very good reason for excluding him. A case could be made that he was the most dominating power hitter of his era. He put up big numbers during his career, which was during the most pitcher dominated era, 1963-1977, since the dead ball era.

      • I found a Bill James post regarding Allen. This was before Jim Rice was elected to the HOF fame, and he was refuting the idea that Rice was the most feared hitter of his era. In fact, Rice had only the 12th highest OPS+ during his best 10 year stretch, behind such luminaries as Gene Tenace, Ken Singleton and Jack Clark.

        Allen, however, between 1964-1973, had the highest OPS+ (165) in baseball. This was higher than Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Frank Howard, Carl Yastrzemski and several other high profile players of his era. So, the “most feared hitter of his era” tag can be validated by the numbers.

        Here’s the summary quote from James: “Conservatively, Dick Allen was one of the top forty hitters of all-time. And that’s very conservative. He averaged 31.68 Win Shares per 162 games, which is higher than any first baseman except Lou Gehrig. Dick Allen won a few major awards and was the best offensive player in the game for ten years. His career line is a little low, but his peak is remarkable. His statistical record is the record of a Hall of Fame player.”

        Allen probably won’t make Joe’s Top 100 list, but he should.

        • Correction: though posted on, James didn’t actually write the story.

          • Andy says:

            In his (revised) Historical Abstract, James ranked Allen as the 15th greatest first basemen — directly behind Don Mattingly, Tony Perez and Will Clark but ahead of a number of Hall of Famers, including Cepeda, George Sisler, Frank Chance and Bill Terry). James had strong (negative) feelings about Allen, stating at one point that he “did more to keep his teams from winning than anyone else who ever played major league baseball. And if that’s a Hall of Famer, I’m a lug nut.”

      • johnq11 says:

        I think Dick Allen was controversial figure during is playing days and the writers held that against him. I think he was also greatly hurt by playing in that mini dead ball era of the 1960’s. Philadelphia as the southernmost northern city at the time so that didn’t help Allen at all.

        Objectively, his HOF snub is odd. To me it’s just a case of ignorance or a great inconsistency in voting.

        He’s a mid-decade guy (came up in a year ending with 3, 4, 5. These guys tend to be underrated because they don’t fit into neat, Best hitter of the 60’s etc.

        If you take his decade: 1964-1973, he’s the best offensive player (according to O-War) and the 5th best position player overall according to War. Including pitchers, he’s 9th overall. A 44 WAR from this time period is an automatic HOF selection and Allen had a 54.5 so something is really off.

        Basically a 48 OWAR from this time period was an automatic HOF selection yet Allen had a 63.5 OWAR??? That makes no sense, so something is really off. I think you would be hard pressed to find a non-steriod player who led the majors in OWAR for a 10 year period not in the HOF.

        The two glaring HOF omissions from this decade are, Dick Allen and Pete Rose. Out of the top 18 WAR finishers from this time period, Allen is the only eligible player not in the HOF.

        Even his non (War/advanced stat) argument is strong.

        His two strongest arguments:

        1-He finished in the top 3 in slugging 7 times and led the league 3 times. I can’t find a non-steroid guy with similar stats not in the HOF. Since 1920, I think McGwire & Bonds are the only two other players who led the league in Slugging % who are not in the HOF.

        2-He finished in the top 10 in OPS 10 times and led the league 4 times. Three times is a lock HOF but 4??? I think Bonds is the only other eligible player to do that without getting into the HOF.

        He meets the Black ink, Gray ink and HOF monitor standards. He won an MVP award and was a 7 time all star. It’s just very strange they never elected him.

        I never understood how Orlando Cepeda & Tony Perez got in and not Dick Allen??? Makes no sense.

        • mrgjg says:

          No it doesn’t but in Perez’s case, he had the storyline of being an integral part of one of the greatest teams of all time.
          He had the Mr. Clutch label because of all those RBI’s.
          I remember when they made a big deal out of the fact that he had 11 straight years of 90+ RBI’s. Of course having guys like Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey and Bobby Tolan hitting in front of you might have had something to do with it. He was also a big gregarious guy, pretty much the antithesis of Allen.

          • johnq11 says:

            I understand “why” Perez was elected although I disagreed with it. And that was a BBWAA vote. I really never understood the big push to elect Cepeda??

            I meant it objectively “makes no sense” that those two guys got in and not Allen.

            How did they elect Perez and then snub Hernandez?? Makes not sense.

            John Olerud & Will Clark were better 1b than Perez or Cepeda. And Fred McGriff had about the same value as Cepeda.

          • mrgjg says:

            Unfortunately there’s no “reply” button under your comment. Yes, I realize you were using a figure of speech when saying you “never understood” why Perez and Cepeda were elected.

  16. mrgjg says:

    Yep, the average fan scoffs at the idea that Allen was indeed a HOF player. As you say his dominance is masked by the era he played.
    He had a 156 OPS+ as opposed to 158 for Greenberg, yet his raw OPS was over 100 pts. lower then Hanks. Dick Allen is 19th on the alltime OPS+ list and every guy ahead of him, with the exception of McGwire (and that’s a whole other story) is in the HOF..
    In fact, the 18 guys above him reads like a who’s who of some of the greatest players who ever lived. Just a bunch of inner-circle guys.
    Look at some of the guys just below him, Mays, Aaron, DiMaggio, Ott, Frank Robby, these are all-time greats.
    Yea, Allen had some warts, but considering the company he keeps, were they enough to keep him on the outside?

    • John Gale says:

      There’s actually quite a few guys above Allen on the career OPS+ list who are not in the Hall of Fame for one reason or another: Bonds (PEDs), Shoeless Joe (Black Sox), Pujols (still active), McGwire (PEDs), Pete Browning (not sure–he only had a 13-year career and played pre-1900), and Dave Orr (8-year career, pre-1900).

      • mrgjg says:

        Obviously you’re correct, but really the same problem Big Mac’s having getting the call would absolutely apply to Bonds and Shoeless Joe. It’s hard to count Browning and Orr because the game was so much different in their era as well as them playing in the weaker of the two major leagues.

        • Shoeless Joe is an entirely different HOF situation. Owing to his permanent ineligibility, he has never been on a HOF ballot and cannot be considered, like Rose, the only similarly situated player…. Unless you believe any of the other Black Sox are otherwise HOF worthy.

          McGwire and Bonds are both currently on the ballot and can be voted in should the HOF voters soften their PED stances. Bonds, in particular, gets support from those that believe he was a HOFer before choosing to take PEDs. So, there is a reasonable chance, at least for Bonds to get in…. And who knows for McGwire. The moral relativist crowd is a noisy group.

          As for Shoeless Joe…. He has no chance in that there is no significant movement towards reinstating him.

          • mrgjg says:

            No shite Sherlock. My point was, they’re not being kept out because the voters didn’t think they were good enough. They all have extenuated circumstances beyond their statistical qualifications.
            That is not the case for Dick Allen.

  17. Carl says:

    After reading this GREAT article, went to BR and noticed three things I wanted to share:
    1) HG had an AWESOME final year. While the .249 BA at the time would have been considered low and made many think he was finished, his OPS was .885 and his OPS+ was 131. Likely one of the finest final seasons ever.

    2) HG was likely helped immensely by Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. His career split showed a .278/.434/.565 home record, good for a 174 OPS+. However, on the road he hit .218/.379/.383 still good but only a OPS+ of 118. 180 points of slugging missing w/o the overhanging roof.

    3) All that hard work likely wore down HG. His carer first half hitting was .279/.426/.526 good for an OPS+ of 168. However, his career 2nd half numbers were .214/.388/.422 for an OPS+ of 122.

    • wordyduke says:

      With respect to the splits, how do they add up to a career .313 batting average? I’m finding .338/.440/.681 and .289/.382/.529 for home and away. .304/.406/.594 and .322/.417/.615 for first and second half. (If I’m correct, I acknowledge that many times I’ve made a research contribution and discovered that it overlooked something.)

      I’m pretty sure the roof overhang was in Briggs/Tiger stadium’s right field, and Greenberg was a right-handed batter. (Maybe a similar situation existed in left field, but I don’t think so.) The old ball park had a pretty good hitting background, as I remember.

      • No overhang in left field, but the dimensions were pretty friendly with only 365 ft to the left field alley. Of course in RF it was 325 ft down the line and 370 in the alley….. Minus 10 feet for the overhang, making right field very friendly for left handed power hitters. 440 to center meant that pull hitters were rewarded. Balls hit to CF might turn into triples but might also get tracked down.

  18. Mike B says:

    The splits that Carl used were for Greenberg’s final season, not his entire career.

  19. Carl says:

    Bellweather: That is exactly what I did. I am embarrassed and apologize for my error.

  20. Chad Meisgeier says:

    I have been out of technology range for a week, so I’m really looking forward to catching up on Joe’s list. Another great article to start off my return. I don’t have Greenberg in my top 100, but I will concede that Joe’s list will be better than mine.

    For my No. 74, I will go with Mariano Rivera.

  21. […] No. 74: Hank Greenberg ( […]

  22. MRH says:

    When Curt Flood took the MLB to court in his fight for free agency, no active players came to testify on his behalf. Three retired players did, though: Jackie Robinson, Jim Brosnan, and Hank Greenberg.

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