Henry Benjamin “Hank” Greenberg (1911-1986) was one of the most feared right-handed hitters in the history of Major League Baseball, knocking out 331 career home runs in a mere 1,394 career games, an average of one home run for every 15.7 at-bats. Hammerin’ Hank posted extraordinary numbers despite losing four years to military service during World War II. Greenberg grew up in New York City where he graduated from James Monroe High School. The 6’4” gangly teen was somewhat awkward, but showed power at the plate, and worked hard on his fielding and base running to become a great fielder. Originally wooed by the New York Giants, the New York Yankees and the Washington Senators, Hank signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1929 considering Bill Terry, Lou Gehrig and up-and-comer Joe Kuhel were firmly entrenched at first base with these respective clubs. After a few seasons of minor league ball, including 1932 when he hit 39 home runs and 131 RBI for the Beaumont Exporters and won the Texas League’s MVP award, the Hebrew Hammer was called up in 1933. That rookie campaign, he appeared in 117 games and hit .301 with 135 hits, 12 homers and 85 RBI. In 1934, Greenberg bettered those numbers with a .339 batting average and a league leading 63 doubles as he led the Tigers to the American League pennant and World Series before they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. In 1935, Greenberg led the AL in home runs (36), total bases (389) and RBI (168) – setting a still unbroken record of 103 RBI by the All-Star break, and captured his first of two AL MVP awards. That year, he took Detroit back to the AL pennant and World Series, this time facing the Chicago Cubs. The Tigers beat the Cubs in six games to win the first World Series title in franchise history, but Hank suffered a broken wrist in Game 2 and was forced to watch the action from the bench.
Early in 1936, Hank broke his wrist second time and missed much of the season, but in 1937 he was back on track as he paced the American League with 184 RBI, third most in Major League history and was named to his first of four consecutive AL All-Star teams. In 1938, he tied Philadelphia’s Jimmie Foxx for most home runs by a right-handed batter (58) as he attempted to eclipse Babe Ruth’s long-standing home run record of 60 set in 1927. Speculation surrounding his assault on the record alleged that he was deprived of topping Ruth, being walked more than usual, because of anti-Semitism – a claim he vehemently refuted. But in 1939, Detroit management asked Hank to switch to left field in order to make room for the power hitting first baseman Rudy York who was quickly rising through the Tigers minor league system. In 1940, at 30 years old and playing in unfamiliar territory, Greenberg led the AL in doubles (50), home runs (41), RBI (150), slugging percentage (.671) and total bases (384). He also led al American League left fielders in putouts (297) and assists (14) while posting a .954 fielding percentage in left field to win his second AL MVP Award. He became the first player in history to win the league’s top trophy playing two different positions. After registering for the peacetime draft, Greenberg played only 19 games in 1941 before serving six months in the United States Army, discharged on December 5, 1941 – two days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Hank re-upped in February 1942 and spent the next four years serving his country during World War II. Discharged a second time on June 14, 1945, Greenberg homered in his first game back in a Detroit uniform and was a key factor in the Tigers’ return to the World Series in 1945. On the final day of the season, with darkness falling on the field as the Tigers faced the St. Louis Browns at Sportsman’s Park, umpire George Pipgras (a former player) nearly called the game due to darkness in the ninth inning. But Greenberg insisted he could see the ball as he approached home plate and proceeded to drive a grand slam into the bleachers and the Tigers to the AL pennant.
Greenberg and the Tigers won their second World Series title with Hank in the lineup that year. In 1946, he led the AL in home runs (44) and RBI (127) for the fourth time in his career in each category, but after refusing to accept a pay cut for the 1947 season, Hank was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. At 36, Greenberg’s numbers dipped considerably, but he was able to help mentor an up-and-coming star Ralph Kiner in the Pirates system. He was also compassionate and empathetic toward Brooklyn Dodgers rookie Jackie Robinson and welcomed the future Hall of Famer with open arms – one of the first players to extend a hand. Hank Greenberg retired after the 1947 season having amassed 1,628 hits including 379 doubles and 331 home runs, 1,046 runs scored, 1,274 RBI and a .313 career batting average in an astonishing 1,394 Major League games. In 13 seasons with Detroit (1930, 1933-1941, 1945-1946) and Pittsburgh (1947), he also posted a .990 fielding percentage. Following his playing days, he was hired as the director of the Cleveland Indians farm system and shortly thereafter became the club’s general manager. In 1959, he partnered with Bill Veeck to purchase the Chicago White Sox, where he again served as general manager and helped guide them their first American League pennant since 1919. He left the White Sox in 1961. Hank Greenberg was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956.
|Pos||Grade||Thumbnail||Pedigree and History|
|1||NM-MT 8 (11)|
|Date||Price||Grade||Lot #||Auction House||Auction/Seller||Type||Cert|
|09/16/2007||$3,047||8||231||Memory Lane, Inc.||High Grade Card Auction and a Few Surprises||Auction||90634113|
|11/07/2007||$3,055||8||25||Goodwin and Co. Auctions||Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XV||Auction||01022163|
|01/11/2015||$2,817||8||466||Memory Lane, Inc.||Past & Present Winter Auction||Auction||22910627|
|08/11/2018||$2,827||8||103||Memory Lane, Inc.||Summer Spectacular 2018 Auction||Auction||01043317|
|03/14/2014||$1,350||7||172||Greg Bussineau Auctions||Spring 2014 Vintage Trading Cards and Memorabilia Auction||Auction||17919280|
|07/14/2014||$1,230||7||235||Greg Bussineau Auctions||Summer 2014 Vintage Trading Cards and Memorabilia Auction||Auction||11037813|
|07/14/2017||$950||6.5||252513822292||eBay||quality*cards||Buy It Now||22910626|
|08/24/2017||$960||6.5||263161241792||eBay||quality*cards||Buy It Now||22910626|
|12/03/2016||$216||4||709||Love of the Game Auctions||Fall, 2016 Premier Auction - Closes November 19||Auction||15507799|
|11/26/2017||$197||2.5||335||Love of the Game Auctions||Fall, 2017 Ringside and Premier Auction||Auction||23272819|
|06/15/2016||$124||2||52||Mile High Card Company||Extra Innings June 2016||Auction||23793111|
|05/29/2017||$106||1 (MK)||401331045766||eBay||benb51||Best Offer||12562656|