Yesterday we were blessed here in Pittsburgh with an absolutely perfect day for baseball. You can of course take an opportunity like that to remember what you’ve lost, but I hope instead you looked forward.
The Illumination of Hank – 05-17 – Hank said unto him, through my own journey shall I lend you strength.
On May 17th, 1947 one of the most special and important events continued to make its way around the league. Jackie Robinson was at the beginning of enduring, and thriving in his rookie season, and the next stop was Forbes Field right here in Pittsburgh.
Jackie was at the beginning, but Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg was finishing his illustrious career. He spent his entire career in Detroit, gave three years plus to the United States Army Air Force and in 1947 wound up in Pittsburgh just two years removed from flying missions.
You may have guessed it from the last name, but Hank had himself dealt with racial intolerance. Being a Jewish man, he too wasn’t accepted with open arms. Here was a person who played 11 full seasons in MLB and won 8 MVPs in his career. Never discount how important it was that players like Hank and Jackie were also damn good at baseball. Tolerance unfortunately takes a special person both on and off the field if history teaches us anything.
Early in the game Jackie collided with Hank at first base, both walked away but Robinson was a little worse for wear. He didn’t dare tell anyone if he was hurt, nor was this unusual, taking shots at Jackie was as routine as a can of corn to right field. There were players on every team that didn’t want him there, and any opportunity the game could provide to show him physically was taken.
When the game was over, Mr. Greenberg approached Mr. Robinson and asked him if he was ok. When Jackie replied he was, Hank came back with this “Stick in there. You’re doing fine. Keep your chin up.”
A few days later Jackie told writers that his “diamond hero” is Hank Greenberg.
Friends, you never know the power of a kind word. You can never fully understand why you are going through something in your life until one day you meet someone who needs you to use the knowledge you gained to lend them a hand up. Would Jackie have quit if Hank didn’t say anything, if he just let Jackie believe there was one more guy who wanted to show him how unwanted he was? My gut says no, but these two men meeting on the hallowed grounds of Forbes Field is a stirring reminder of the very real hatred endured on the path to equality.
Hank Greenberg’s legend doesn’t belong to Pittsburgh, he is a Detroit legend and rightfully so, but even though 1947 would be one of the 3 seasons he did not receive the MVP, perhaps he did earn something even more important in his time here in Pittsburgh, the adoration of a young man isolated and fighting everyday to simply be treated like a human. For that reason, in 1947 Hammerin’ Hank may very well have been the Most Valuable Person instead of player.
Blessings my friends, be kind to each other, you never know the impact it could have on a person.