Saturday, June 7, 2014

POETRY BREAK #19: "Speaking Of Greenberg" by EDGAR A. GUEST, 1934

Albie's Note: OK, friends... if you know me at all you probably know at least TWO things-- amongst others-- about me:  I love old time Baseball, and I am an ardent "Christian Zionist."  

It's rare that those 2 passions come together but they do in today's "POETRY BREAK," as under-valued American poet Edgar Guest brings us a great American Poem about the first Jewish baseball Hall-Of-Famer and all around hero Henry Benjamin "Hank" Greenberg (January 1, 1911 – September 4, 1986), [nicknamed "Hammerin' Hank," "Hankus Pankus" or "The Hebrew Hammer."]

The occasion for this poem is summarized nicely by WIKIPEDIA:

Late in the 1934 season, [Greenberg] announced that he would not play on September 10, which was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, or on September 19, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Fans grumbled, "Rosh Hashanah comes every year but the Tigers haven't won the pennant since 1909."

Greenberg did considerable soul-searching, and discussed the matter with his rabbi; finally he relented and agreed to play on Rosh Hashanah, but stuck with his decision not to play on Yom Kippur. Dramatically, Greenberg hit two home runs in a 2–1 Tigers victory over Boston on Rosh Hashanah. The next day's Detroit Free Press ran the Hebrew lettering for "Happy New Year" across its front page.

Columnist and poet Edgar A. Guest expressed the general opinion in a poem titled "Speaking of Greenberg," in which he used the Irish (and thus Catholic) names Murphy and Mulroney. The poem ends with the lines "We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat / But he's true to his religion—and I honor him for that."

And so I am proud to reprint it here, as it originally appeared across the country's newspapers in October 1934:


by Edgar A. Guest

The Irish didn't like it when they heard of Greenberg's fame
For they thought a good first baseman should possess an Irish name;
And the Murphys and Mulrooneys said they never dreamed they'd see
A Jewish boy from Bronxville out where Casey used to be.
In the early days of April not a Dugan tipped his hat
Or prayed to see a "double" when Hank Greenberg came to bat.

In July the Irish wondered where he'd ever learned to play.
"He makes me think of Casey!" Old Man Murphy dared to say;
And with fifty-seven doubles and a score of homers made
The respect they had for Greenberg was being openly displayed.
But on the Jewish New Year when Hank Greenberg came to bat
And made two home runs off Pitcher Rhodes—they cheered like mad for that.

Came Yom Kippur—holy fast day world-wide over to the Jew—
And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true
Spent the day among his people and he didn't come to play.
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, "We shall lose the game today!
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat,
But he's true to his religion—and I honor him for that!"

Edgar Albert Guest 



Oscar said...

A great tribute to Hammerin' Hank.

Albie The Good said...

OSCAR: Agreed!

Neil Waring said...

Lots of Greenburg stories when I was a kid growing up. At that time(1950s) he was not too far removed from being a star in the majors. Good Stuff!

Albie The Good said...

NEIL: Thanks for commenting, Neil... have you ever read the thing about his "espionage" work in WW2? Fascinating guy!

jasmine nile said...

thanks ,,,,,,,,,