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Posts Tagged ‘The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg’

After watching the sports documentary, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (an Aviva Kempner film), I found an interesting connection between the Yankees organization and the legendary slugger.

In 1947,  Detroit Tigers owner Walter Briggs became infuriated with his star slugger, Hank Greenberg because he was asking for more money than he wanted to pay. Hank was at the tail end of his career, but he just came off a tremendous 1946 season, where he hit 44 home runs and knocked in 127 RBI’s. Briggs also saw a picture of Greenberg in the Sporting News paper, which displayed a picture of Hank sitting in a clubhouse with a Yankees uniform on his lap. The general idea was that Hank wanted to go to the Bronx (where he grew up) and finish his career as a New York Yankee.

Soon after this photo was released in the newspaper, Hank learned that he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates over the radio airwaves. He didn’t believe it until a telegram was delivered to him. It read: “Your contract has been assigned to the Pittsburgh Baseball Club of the National League. We wish you good luck.” The photo really infuriated Briggs and he let him go without investigation. They would later find out that the picture was taken years ago during Hank’s service in WWII. Hank took part in an All-Star benefit game while in the service and they didn’t have a uniform that would fit him, so they gave him a Yankees uniform to wear.

Briggs made sure that nobody in the American League would pick up Greenberg through waivers, so he couldn’t come back and haunt them. At the time, baseball owners had complete control over their players and they could send players to other teams on a whim. You couldn’t get away with such a thing today.

It came as a shock to Greenberg and the Detroit fans. Hank was so upset over the situation, he was ready to retire. The Pirates contacted him, making him an offer he couldn’t refuse. They were set to make him the highest paid player in baseball. Greenberg wound up being the first player to ever break the $80,000 barrier (Ruth’s 1930-31 Salary). Pittsburgh gave Hank $115,000 to play for them in 1947. It was the last season he would ever play.

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