Saturday, March 23, 2013

John Rosengren's "Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes"

John Rosengren's books include the short story collection Life is Just a Party: Portrait of a Teenage Partier and the nonfiction exposé Blades of Glory: The True Story of a Young Team Bred to Win.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
(Tigers’ manager Mickey) Cochrane chewed out his players before Game Four on Saturday, October 6, (1934) and singled out Hank by dropping him from the cleanup spot to sixth in the batting order. The team responded, drubbing the Cardinals 10-4 to even the Series at two games apiece. Hank led the effort, going four-for-five with two doubles, one of which just missed being a home run, and three RBI. He even stole home on a passed ball.
It pained Greenberg that in his first World Series he had failed to come through in the clutch with runners on base. He responded to Cochrane’s tongue-lashing and batting order demotion in the way he did so often throughout his career when piqued by the words or actions of others–with success.

Four years earlier when he was in the minors and a pitcher teased him on the team bus about his low batting average, Hank channeled his anger into determination and knocked out four hits in that day’s game. In the big leagues, when he heard the bigots in the bleachers hurl anti-Semitic remarks his way, he lashed out with extra-base hits. He was sensitive, sure, and admitted that early on he let the criticism and harassment get to him, but his response was telling of his character. He refused to let frustration defeat him.

That revealed the heart of the hero, a man who agreed to play a new position to help his team–and won the MVP Award his first season in left field; a man who answered the nation’s call to serve in the military before his country had gone to war–then became the first to reenlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor, even though he figured he sacrificed his baseball career to do so; a man who came back to clinch the 1945 pennant for the Tigers with a dramatic ninth-inning grand slam on the final day of the season; and a man who went on as a baseball executive to champion the rights of African-American players, sympathetic from the lessons he’d learned during his own playing days. Ford Madox Ford would glimpse the heart of Greenberg in this passage from p. 99 of Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes.
Learn more about the book and author at John Rosengren's website.

--Marshal Zeringue