By Jack Engelhard
There’s a clip somewhere showing Hank Greenberg rounding the bases after a homerun and upon reaching the dugout none of his Detroit Tigers teammates offered so much as a smile or a handshake. They ignored him. Well, he was Jewish. There’s evidence that he suffered for that as much as Jackie Robinson suffered for being black.
Two great ballplayers, one Jewish, one black, and sharing the same abuses, they became friends.
Greenberg was known for his reserve but he once challenged the entire New York Yankees dugout after their taunts became too much for him. He wasn’t religious but, as the first Jewish superstar in American sports, Greenberg took himself out of an important game because it fell on Yom Kippur…years BEFORE Sandy Koufax…and…for World War II, he refused deferment and got himself drafted into the military BEFORE Ted Williams.
We could go on about Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg (183 RBIs, 1937…58 homeruns, 1938…), but then there’d be no room to talk about Delmon Young. He also plays for Detroit except that this is another year, another generation, and what’s changed? Nothing much.
Would Delmon Young rise from the dugout to congratulate Hank Greenberg? I don’t think so. Delmon Young is no Jackie Robinson.
By now most people know what happened in New York a few weeks ago, see here, so let’s not go into all that beyond the fact that Young, operating on drunken reflexes, found himself facing a man wearing a kippa and doing what comes so naturally there days…flew into an anti-Semitic rage.
Yes, Delmon Young proved to be for baseball what Tom Friedman is for newspaper journalism and what Bob Simon is for broadcast journalism.
We could also ask Mel Gibson (and Delmon Young) why drinking too much alcohol so often triggers a blame-the-Jews hangover. You don’t even need steroids.
The Detroit Tigers’ brass were unhappy with Delmon Young’s off-the-field performance — but not too unhappy.
They hooked him with a suspension not for seven years, or seven months, or seven weeks. No, seven DAYS. (Though his future with the team is still ambiguous.)
Compare that with bigotry against African-Americans: Howard Cosell, the famed broadcaster in boxing and football, never recovered for his 1973 slur (which I will not repeat because IT IS repugnant even though those who knew him swear that he was not a bigoted man)…anyway, he was not completely ruined but it was never the same for Cosell.
Jimmy the Greek WAS completely ruined! His remark, back in 1988, that African American are “bred” for athletics got him fired from CBS.
Al Campanis? This general manager of the LA Dodgers was also completely ruined. No seven days for him, either, after he said that African Americans were not fit to be field managers or general managers. He said that on Ted Koppel’s “Nightline” on April, 6, 1987. Two days later he resigned.
Campanis had played alongside Robinson and neither Cosell or Jimmy the Greek were known to be bigots. But those remarks alone did them in.
Zero tolerance when it comes to racism – and that’s how it should be. (Though where is the famous “forgiveness” that people keep talking about?)
Anti-Semitism? That gets no more than an asterisk. Anti-Semitism is once again an international pastime, as in the days of Hank Greenberg.