First Jew in the Hall of Fame

In 1934, the Detroit Tigers, with the help of their star slugger first-base man, Henry Benjamin "Hank" Greenberg, jumped from fifth place in the American League to battle for the pennant against the Boston Red Sox. Then, a crucial game was scheduled to take place on Yom Kippur! Hank decided to honor his tradition, and resisting all pressure, he spent Yom Kippur in the synagogue.

That day, his team lost the game. When he returned after Yom Kippur, they were able to win the pennant, but they lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Greenberg's observance of Yom Kippur won the respect of America, and it inspired Edgar Guest, a popular American poet, to write a poem in his honor. The following is an excerpt from the poem:

Come Yom Kippur - holy fast day worldwide 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 in the infield and shall miss him at the bat,
But he's true to his religion - and I honor him for that!"

A year, later, the Tigers won the World Series and Greenberg was the first Jew voted "Most Valuable Player" in either major league.

The 1938 season brought more drama for Greenberg when he challenged Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a season. With five games left, Greenberg had hit 58. With the eyes of the world on Greenberg in those last five games, several pitchers chose to walk him rather than give him a chance to break Ruth's record. While Greenberg never complained, many observers believed that major league baseball did not want a Jew breaking Ruth's record.
In 1954, Hank Greenberg became the first Jewish player to be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

From: Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohein:

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