Enemies, A Love Story

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Hank Greenberg Confronts Anti-Semitism in Baseball

by Ray Robinson


High and Tight: Hank Greenberg Confronts Anti–Semitism in Baseball

HIGH AND TIGHT

It happened almost seventy years ago, but I can still hear the harsh, accusatory words from the mouth of an unreconstructed Southern bigot. I was a GI, stationed at the time at Barksdale Air Base in Shreveport, Louisiana, when I decided one Saturday to attend a high school football game in the area.

Perched high in the wooden stands, I found my concentration rudely interrupted by a beery voice as it blurted out its hateful message to the world about a baseball player named Hank Greenberg. Since I had always been an admirer of Greenberg, I couldn’t help but listen to the man.

“That goddamn Hank Greenberg!” the voice shrieked. I strained to hear the rest of the peckerwood oration. “That Jew-lover Navin got rid of you so that Jew bastard could play first base! Everybody knows Greenberg didn’t deserve it!”

It is one of the ironies of life, I guess, that I was probably one of the only people in that 1ittle stadium who appreciated that the maligned Navin—Frank Navin—was the owner of the Detroit Tigers major league club. But that’s beside the point, for I knew more about baseball at the time than almost anything else in my young life.

I knew, for example, that the “you” addressed by the voice had to be a well-forgotten ballplayer named Harry “Stinky” Davis, who had been born in Shreveport. (Ballplayers had colorful, useful nicknames in those years, didn’t they?—names like Jumbo, Bump, Dizzy, Daffy, Dazzy, Fatty, Specs, Lippy. Stinky was in that tradition.)

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