Henry Benjamin Greenberg (born Hyman Greenberg; January 1, 1911 – September 4, 1986), nicknamed "Hammerin' Hank", "Hankus Pankus", or "The Hebrew Hammer", was an American professional baseball player and team executive. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB), primarily for the Detroit Tigers as a first baseman in the 1930s and 1940s. A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award winner, he was one of the premier power hitters of his generation and is widely considered as one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history. He had 47 months of military service including service in World War II, all of which took place during what would have been prime years in his major league career.
Greenberg played the first twelve of his 13 major league seasons for Detroit. He was an American League (AL) All-Star for four seasons[a] and an AL MVP in 1935 (first baseman) and 1940 (left fielder). He had a batting average over .300 in eight seasons, and won two World Series championships with the Tigers (1935 and 1945). He was the AL home run leader four times and his 58 home runs for the Tigers in 1938 equaled Jimmie Foxx's 1932 mark for the most in one season by anyone other than Babe Ruth, and tied Foxx for the most home runs between Ruth's record 60 in 1927 and Roger Maris' record 61 in 1961. Greenberg was the first major league player to hit 25 or more home runs in a season in each league, and remains the AL record-holder for most runs batted in in a single season by a right-handed batter (183 in 1937, a 154-game schedule). His career statistics would have certainly been higher had he not served in the armed services during wartime. In 1947, Greenberg signed a contract for a record $85,000 salary before being sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he played his final MLB season that year. After retiring from playing, Greenberg continued to work in baseball as a team executive for the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.
Greenberg was the first Jewish superstar in American team sports. He attracted national attention in 1934 in the middle of a pennant race when he had to decide whether to play baseball on two major Jewish holidays; after consultation with his rabbi, he agreed to play on Rosh Hashanah, but on Yom Kippur he spent the day at his synagogue, even though he was not particularly observant religiously. Having endured his share of anti-semitic abuse in his career, Greenberg was one of the few opposing players to publicly welcome African-American player Jackie Robinson to the major leagues in 1947.
Greenberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956. He passed away on Sept. 4, 1986.