The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg

2000, Movie, NR, 89 mins

Review

LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG, THE
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A heartfelt tribute to "Hammering" Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers, the Bronx-born slugger who not only batted his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but came to represent the American Dream come true for generations of Jewish Americans. Filmmaker Aviva Kempner concentrates on Greenberg's career during the 1930s and '40s, decades during which Greenberg made history playing first base and, later, left field for the Detroit Tigers. Twice voted MVP in the American League (and the first player to be honored in two different positions), Greenberg played four World Series and came close to breaking both Lou Gherig's record for RBIs and Babe Ruth's record for the number of home runs in a single season. But Greenberg's greatest contribution lay not in stats but stature; a 6'4" Jewish American who asserted his ethnicity and defied all the stereotypes to become a national hero for thousands of immigrant Jews who, eager to assimilate, embraced baseball both for the love of the game and as a sign of their "Americanism." Great clips of Hammering Hank abound, but the heart of this entertainingly edited documentary lies in the memories of the many fans Kempner interviews, ranging from fellow Tigers, U.S. senators and rabbis to actor Walter Matthau and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who calls Greenberg "the most important Jew of the 1930s." The film rushes to a close -- Kempner clearly isn't interested in Greenberg's career once he left the field -- and discreetly gives short shrift his personal life, particularly his failed marriage to department-store heiress Carol Gimbel. But it's a fine, straightforward tribute to a sports giant who faced blatant prejudice and paved away for the likes Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and other minorities who dared make a place for themselves as heroes of America's greatest pastime. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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