Much like Hank Greenberg, the subject of director Aviva Kempner’s 1999 film The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Marcin Gortat, a Polish basketball player on the Washington Wizard’s basketball team, has come into the spotlight of sports. In a January 30th article written by Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post, Gortat is described as a god in his country, with many young Polish basketball players aspiring to be like him. Gortat’s everyday life is tracked in Polish media almost daily. There are action figures of Gortat and Wizards jerseys with his name and number on the back. He is a national hero in Poland, which makes him similar to Hank Greenberg in at least one respect.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Hank Greenberg hit the peak of his baseball career, becoming a five-time All Star, two-time American League MVP, and an overall American baseball hero. Greenberg was also the first Jew to play in Major League Baseball, and had a large following in Jewish-American communities throughout the United States. One significant event in Greenberg’s career that highlighted his religion was when he chose to sit out a game, as it fell on Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday for repentance. His decision sparked debate in both the baseball community and the Jewish-American community, but Greenberg was able to maintain his reputation as an exceptionally well-respected baseball player.
Both Gortat and Greenberg have a lot in common, winning both games and the hearts of the people of their respective countries.