The Grace of the Game: Hank Greenberg

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In the course of my always-enjoyable-yet never-ending searching for classic baseball photographs, I often come upon great shots that are unfortunately not linked to a particular game or moment but are captured so beautifully that I have to save them anyway. While I typically try to seek out photographs that tell a story, sometimes, as with these photos, the story tells itself. So despite the limited information available on these, I feel they should still be shared and enjoyed with classic baseball fans everywhere.

So, I’ve started a new series here, which I’ve called The Grace of the Game; action shots with only limited information available that would be otherwise lost to time, but reflecting the inherent beauty of the game of baseball, be they of superstars, day-to-day lunchpail players or largely forgotten journeymen, all contributing to the artistry of the grand old game and luckily preserved by the well-timed click of a skilled photographer’s camera. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

The first entry really needs no introduction to classic baseball fans, the incomparable Hank Greenberg, slugging first baseman/outfielder for the Detroit Tigers (and one final season with the Pittsburgh Pirates). The original “Hammerin’ Hank”, third child of four of Jewish Romanian immigrants who emigrated to New York, and grew up across from municipal baseball fields in the Bronx, he was one of the most feared sluggers of his day, with 331 career HRs despite losing almost four of his prime years to service in World War II. Also, unlike many power hitters, he had a keen eye at the plate, drawing a great number of walks to result in high career OBP and OPS numbers as well. He was also the first Jewish sports superstar, a hero to many while also enduring the intolerance and prejudices of the era (from both players and fans alike) with his typical confidence and aplomb. He won two championships for Detroit, and his #5 is retired by the Tigers.

The above photo is one of the finest I’ve seen of Greenberg at the plate, no doubt sending another baseball soaring to the far reaches of old Navin Field (later named Briggs then Tiger Stadium). It was taken in 1935, his first MVP season (of two) in which he led the major leagues in HRs, RBIs and total bases, carrying the Tigers to their second AL pennant in a row and then the World Series Championship.

A great snapshot, but even over and above that beautiful capture, Hank Greenberg has always exemplified the Grace of the Game.

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