New York University, where Hank Greenberg went for only a semester before he became antsy and began playing for the Detroit Tigers, has brought back their varsity baseball team after forty-one years of dormancy. Another famous professional baseball player who started his career at NYU is Ralph Branca, who broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944. Find the full New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/sports/baseball/young-players-write-new-history-as-baseball-returns-to-nyu.html?src=twr&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0
This past Sunday, the first Black Cuban, All-Star outfielder who played for the major leagues died. Born Saturnino Orestes Armas Minoso Arrieta in Perico, Cuba, the name he eventually was known for came from his half brother that played baseball in Cuba. He went from working on sugar cane fields in his earlier years and playing on the sandlot and semipro in his home country to making his debut in 1949 with the Cleveland major league team.
Featured in and interview of the DVD of Hank Greenberg, Minoso got a chance to share his story and experience with the Jewish baseball star. In 1951, he was traded by Cleveland and became the first black player to be hired by Hank Greenberg of the Chicago White Sox. Known for his speed and his pitching, Minoso was selected nine times to go to the All-Star games and won three Gold Gloves. In an effort to get him into the hall of fame, the White Sox let their beloved “Cuban Comet” play on the field over the past five decades, which is something only one other major league player has done. It was his dream to make it to Cooperstown; unfortunately, he fell short of the required percentage needed for induction.
Playing during a time in America when segregation was still very prevalent, Minoso received support from his fellow teammates like Chico Carrasquel who was white. He struggled to learn English, but still excelled on the field, stealing 205 bases with a .298 average across the 17 seasons that he played for. President Obama was quoted saying “Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame, but for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.” All he ever wanted to do was play baseball, and he’ll definitely forever be remembered for it.
To read this full article about Minnie Minoso from the New York Times, click here.
Erica Marshall, Winter Intern
The Bob Feller museum in Van Meter, Iowa is closing and being converted to a city hall. The museum was a tribute to the Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, who was featured in Aviva Kempner’s film The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. Greenberg feared facing Feller. Years later, he brought him to Cleveland to pitch. Before Feller’s death in 2010, he would have fund-raising events at the museum and invite famous retirees, who would usually waive their appearance fee in exchange for Feller appearing at an event of their choice. However, after Feller died, players did not want to appear for free anymore since they were not getting anything in return. Without the fund-raising events, the city of Van Meter could not support the museum, especially as membership dropped from around 450 to less than 100. As a result, members of the museum decided to close the museum and sell it to the city, where it will become a new city hall. Some of Feller’s artifacts will remain on exhibit. To read more about it in The New York Times, click here.
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.
This was a VERY important question asked in an article written by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post and sent by me, Aviva Kempner, who once asked Ryan Zimmerman if he was Jewish. After hearing the response “no”, I told him “you are missing out on a lot of Friday night invitations.” It kind of sounds like he is!
Contrary to popular belief, last names hardly make it easier to identify a Jew. Actress Mila Kunis, actor Jonah Hill, and producer/actress Lena Dunham are all Jewish. Bet you didn’t know that! Max Schezer is a 30-year-old starting pitcher that was just signed to the Washington Nationals team. He’s a former player for the Detroit Tigers and an All-Star, all of which he and Jewish first baseman Hank Greenberg have in common. However, he’s NOT Jewish. Sucks for him, but he’s still a great guy! I’m pretty sure Hank would have loved him! Learn more fun facts about him in this article. GO NATS!
This past weekend, the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants played an 18 inning playoff game, the longest in the history of postseason major league baseball. In the 19th century, baseball was a brutal game sometimes played to as many as 80 innings. Catchers wore no protective equipment, and the first prominent catcher to position himself close behind the batters, was Doug Allison, who toiled for the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Here is a Washington Post feature about Allison, who was a longtime postal employee in the Nation’s Capital.
Doug Allison. (Hoag & Co./Hoag & Co./The A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection)
The slugging careers of Hank Greenberg and Ted Williams overlapped, and for years they were American League rivals. Both 6’4″ sluggers served their country in World War Two. For the most part, the days of baseball players playing so long for a ffranchise, such that their names become synonymous with their teams, as with Greenberg and Williams, are behind us. Perhaps that accounts for part of the national appreciation of Derek Jeter. Greenberg’s former teammate Hal Newhouser was a scout with the Houston Astros in the 1990’s. He recommended that the team sign a prospect from Tiger Country (Kalamazoo) named Derek Jeter. When Houston refused to give the kid a contract, Newhouser resigned.
Here is a New York Times piece that reminds us of how Jeter’s triumphant last game at Yankee Stadium, echoes Ted Williams’ farewell at Fenway:
And here is a photo of Ted and Hank, with then-Congressman John F. Kennedy: