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Thread: Overlooked player on this site 101: Hank Greenberg

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Overlooked player on this site 101: Hank Greenberg

    Just seems to me we don't put the Original Hammerin' Hank up on a pedestal that much here, maybe it's that he's done in by Gehrig/Foxx his contmporaries, or that he didn't play that long, or he wasn't flashy.

    I take his greatness for granted, and remember a very effective Bill James summary that rattled off Greenberg's highlights in the '88 Abstract. He drove in 183 one yr, had 58 hrs another, 170 rbi a third, missed 4.5 seasons to WW2, retired 3 yrs early, broke a hand and missed another prime yr......

    So what's missing here?

  2. #2
    I totally agree.

    http://www.baseball-fever.com/showth...ight=Greenberg

    [post not facetious]

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    Recently posted this in the Historical Articles Thread
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    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

    Fever members come and go. Not relevant. Your documentations will live FOREVER, my brother. That outweighs all the Fever jack-asses. Ignore what you must, document all you can."
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    A couple other Greenberg related artciles

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=h...35sep28/34-35/

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=h...43apr02/23-24/

    Ya know, Greenberg Gardens were put in for Hank, which added a bullpen and brought the fence in from 365' to 340'. Boston did the same for Teddy Ballgame. Wonder if those are the only two cases of that happening?
    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

    Fever members come and go. Not relevant. Your documentations will live FOREVER, my brother. That outweighs all the Fever jack-asses. Ignore what you must, document all you can."
    - Bill Burgess

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    A few months ago I watched the documentary, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. It's an incredible documentary. Here is a trailer. I highly recommend it!

    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  6. #6
    This is probably an over simplification, but it seems that those who don't give Greenberg war credit tend to underrate him while those who give war credit value him higher. He was between 30-34 during the war period so it is reasonable to assume that he likely would have still put up pretty good numbers during that time. While it is pure speculation, he might have been a member of the 500 home run club given full seasons from 1941-1945. There were only 3 other members of that club when Hank retired, which would have likely resulted in him being more highly regarded.

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    Greenberg has a few factors working against him.

    1) His career was short, even by the standards of the guys who missed time due to the war. He is a couple of full seasons behind Dimaggio, and a few seasons behind Mize. Really, he only had 7 seasons of more than 125 game played, due not only to WW2, but injuries as well.

    2) he had two direct contemporaries at the same position who were both noticeably better. This is the 'Frank Robinson Syndrome'. Being overshadowed by one guy is bad enough, but when there's two, then you tend to get shifted to the background.

    3) He never really had a season for the ages. While, he certainly had potential for a Ruthian season, he didn't put it together the way, say, Gehrig did in 1927, or Foxx did in 1932-1933. In fact it is almost impossible to say which season is Greenberg's best, as you can make a case for any of 5 or 6 of his seasons as his greatest.
    Last edited by willshad; 02-13-2013 at 12:21 AM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
    Ya know, Greenberg Gardens were put in for Hank, which added a bullpen and brought the fence in from 365' to 340'. Boston did the same for Teddy Ballgame. Wonder if those are the only two cases of that happening?
    The Pirates did it for Ralph Kiner.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by bluesky5 View Post
    The Pirates did it for Ralph Kiner.
    Actually, they did it for Greenberg as well. The Pirates acquired Greenberg between the 46 and 47 seasons, and put the bullpen in front of the scoreboard. Given Greenberg's track record, I imagine they were thinking even more about him than Kiner at the time, but probably about both.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by BigRon View Post
    Actually, they did it for Greenberg as well. The Pirates acquired Greenberg between the 46 and 47 seasons, and put the bullpen in front of the scoreboard. Given Greenberg's track record, I imagine they were thinking even more about him than Kiner at the time, but probably about both.
    I forgot about that. Didn't it eventually become called 'Kiners Korner'?

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    Some good stuff here, thanks! I'm sure everyone here gives him his due, he just seems to get the Frank Robby treatment, as you said. Greenberg had some Wonderful yrs, can't imagine him not being 'part of the conversation' when his era is gone over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesky5 View Post
    The Pirates did it for Ralph Kiner.
    Well, technically they did it for Greenberg and it was renamed once Hank was gone. Just wondered if any other players besides those two had it first done for them. Would liked to have seen Griffith do something for Goslin but Big Train mighta frowned upon that LOL

    Interesting. In Greenberg's last season, his home/road HR were 18/7 and 174/118 OPS+. Just a year earlier in no picnic of a park; Briggs Stadium, his home/road HR were even more pronounced 29/15.
    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

    Fever members come and go. Not relevant. Your documentations will live FOREVER, my brother. That outweighs all the Fever jack-asses. Ignore what you must, document all you can."
    - Bill Burgess

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    Maybe I should make that into a poll question: What season was Hank Greenberg's best season?

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    Greenberg's best vs. Aaron's best could be interesting. A "Hank-Off"
    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

    Fever members come and go. Not relevant. Your documentations will live FOREVER, my brother. That outweighs all the Fever jack-asses. Ignore what you must, document all you can."
    - Bill Burgess

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    A few months ago I watched the documentary, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. It's an incredible documentary. Here is a trailer. I highly recommend it!
    Very nice clip, Honus. It was nice to see him swing a bat. What really gripes me is the portrayal of him as an uncoordinated goon who was just real big and tried real hard.
    Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

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    Have seen it, liked same. I remember Bill James slagging his GM career w Cle later, but that's not what we remember him for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
    in no picnic of a park; Briggs Stadium,
    Actually, Briggs tended to favor hitters. This was for a couple reasons.

    When they enclosed the OF in 1936 it not only cut down the wind, it also provided a good hitting background. The bigger factor is that Detroit was the last park in the AL to install lights, in 1948 IIRC. By that time the technology and know-how had improved, so the Tigers had the best lighting in the league for 20 years. Obviously, it favors hitters when they can see the ball. The quality of lighting in MLB parks can be seen in the day-night splits, which were greater in the 1940's to 1970's than they are now.
    Eradicate, wipe out and abolish redundancy.

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  18. #18
    Comiskey Park made some changes for Al Simmons. Al came from the Athletics in 1933 and supposedly complained about the long distances at Comiskey, which he later said was not true.

    In 1934 at Comiskey Al's second season there, home plate moved out 14 feet.
    1933, 14 home runs, 1934, 18 home runs and 1935, 16 home runs, he averaged 25 a season in Philly if we start wih his first "full" season there in 1925. A year or two after Al left, distances made longer.
    Some of the other Chisox hitters complained when the distance were made shorter, in particular not the heavy hitters.
    Their complaint, with home plate moved out to shorten the distance to the bleachers.............now the distance from home to backstop went from 71 to 85 feet, more room to catch foul pops behind home plate.

    Which still makes me wonder. What were the Yanks thinking with Joe Dimaggio. It was evident after a few seasons, he was their guy.
    Yet they left the left side and centerfield a mile away. They did shorten the distances a bit in 1937 but still, the left side deep LCF and CF was hugh to put it mildly.

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    So who was the greatest Jewish ballplayer - Hank Greenberg or Sandy Koufax?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Freakshow View Post
    Actually, Briggs tended to favor hitters. This was for a couple reasons.

    When they enclosed the OF in 1936 it not only cut down the wind, it also provided a good hitting background. The bigger factor is that Detroit was the last park in the AL to install lights, in 1948 IIRC. By that time the technology and know-how had improved, so the Tigers had the best lighting in the league for 20 years. Obviously, it favors hitters when they can see the ball. The quality of lighting in MLB parks can be seen in the day-night splits, which were greater in the 1940's to 1970's than they are now.
    Good info Freak. Guess Hank's 1946 splits aren't that shocking then.

    Check out another outfielder from that team.

    Roy Cullenbine's home/road splits - 12/3 HR - 229/150 OPS+ - .378/.284 BA

    Aside from fence distances and wall height, I think one of the least talked about factors of ballparks, is the hitters backdrop and the difference it makes. Would have been cool, if someone back then had the foresight to snap a picture from the batters box.

    I don't think parks are taken much into account at all when ranking players. I've even seen Ott's ridiculous HR splits be excused by "Well, he took advantage of the short porch." Ummm yeah, that's the point. We give war credit and consider missed time when ranking players, but does anyone give DiMaggio, for instance, as boost because he hit in a home park, that had unreachable HR distances from left-center to right-center? Or Ruth, who according to Jenkinson, hit 57 HR to left-center and center from 1923-1934....and only ONE of those was hit in Yankee Stadium. Bonds has never hit a HR that would have cleared left-center or center in the original Yankee Stadium.

    One of my favorite passages from Jenkinson:

    --The home run boundaries of Major League ballparks keep getting smaller and smaller, which makes it much easier for modern sluggers to hit home runs. The average distance from home plate to the outfield fences in American League stadiums has decreased by about 28-feet from Ruth's era to today. That incorporates the five measurements from left, left-center, center, right-center, and right fields.

    --These dwindling distances should cause a scandal in the athletic world. There are no other modern sports where the dimensions of the playing area have been deliberately been changed to make it easier to perform. Consider how NBA scoring would skyrocket if the height of the basket was lowered. Or what if the field was shortened in the NFL? In fairness, there has never been a uniform code for the distances to the outfield fences. That is odd in itself. It almost certainly reflects back to the origins of baseball, when home runs were not foreseen as an important part of the game. But somewhere along the way, a comprehensive effort should have been made to achieve competitive continuity.

    --I'm not talking about adhering to the so-called cookie cutter mentality of building every ballpark the same way. Designing those delightful idiosyncratic nooks and crannies into each individual stadium is good for baseball. But doing so does not exclude the capability to make them competitively consistent with their ballparks. Major League Baseball has demanded some accountability from it's teams for a long time now. They have the power to over-rule any franchise that plans to install fences that they deem to be either too far away or too close. But they have never tried to maintain the same degree of difficulty from one era to the next. As a result, it has become progressively easier to hit home runs.
    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

    Fever members come and go. Not relevant. Your documentations will live FOREVER, my brother. That outweighs all the Fever jack-asses. Ignore what you must, document all you can."
    - Bill Burgess

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Freakshow View Post
    Actually, Briggs tended to favor hitters. This was for a couple reasons.

    When they enclosed the OF in 1936 it not only cut down the wind, it also provided a good hitting background. The bigger factor is that Detroit was the last park in the AL to install lights, in 1948 IIRC. By that time the technology and know-how had improved, so the Tigers had the best lighting in the league for 20 years. Obviously, it favors hitters when they can see the ball. The quality of lighting in MLB parks can be seen in the day-night splits, which were greater in the 1940's to 1970's than they are now.
    Went to a good number of games in Detroit years ago and one thing I did notice, very seldom windy, in any direction.
    True some homers can be wind blown and some drives can be held down but I think overall, no wind a positive for the hitter,
    Also that one that is so overlooked when park positives are discussed, great hitter's background, another park with that Fenway.
    Means a lot to the hitter, being able to pick up the ball as it leaves the pitchers hand.
    Last edited by SHOELESSJOE3; 02-14-2013 at 02:37 PM.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by GiambiJuice View Post
    So who was the greatest Jewish ballplayer - Hank Greenberg or Sandy Koufax?
    One batter, one pitcher. It's left at that.

    As great as Greenberg was, he's probably best known for things off the field. Sitting out on Yom Kippur in the heat of the pennant race. Reenlisting days after Pearl Harbor. Openly embracing Jackie Robinson. Those, along with two legendary first base contemporaries and the short career, combine to keep him out of the discussion too much. The man is still revered. Maybe I am biased being from Detroit, where the Jewish community still talks about Greenberg. With Koufax, you have Larry King making up stories about growing up with him in Brooklyn.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiambiJuice View Post
    So who was the greatest Jewish ballplayer - Hank Greenberg or Sandy Koufax?
    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
    One batter, one pitcher. It's left at that.
    Exactly, it's apples & oranges, but the two of them together is a pretty impressive representation.

    And I have Al Rosen just a notch behind.
    "Only twice in my life has the hair on the back of my neck stood up straight. The first time was when I saw Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel. The second time was when I saw Sandy Koufax's fastball" - Al Campanis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by willshad View Post
    Maybe I should make that into a poll question: What season was Hank Greenberg's best season?
    Whichever season he posted the highest WAR, of course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GiambiJuice View Post
    Whichever season he posted the highest WAR, of course.
    Please, please tell me this is sarcasm.
    "Only twice in my life has the hair on the back of my neck stood up straight. The first time was when I saw Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel. The second time was when I saw Sandy Koufax's fastball" - Al Campanis.

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