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The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998) HD online

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Documentary / Biography / Sport
Original Title: The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
Director: Aviva Kempner
Writers: Aviva Kempner
Released: 1998
Duration: 1h 30min
Video type: Movie
The story of Baseball Hall-of-Famer Hank Greenberg is told through archival film footage and interviews with Jewish and non-Jewish fans, his former teammates, his friends, and his family. As a great first baseman with the Detroit Tigers, Greenberg endured antisemitism and became a hero and source of inspiration throughout the Jewish community, not incidentally leading the Tigers to Major League dominance in the 1930s.


Cast overview, first billed only:
Reeve Brenner Reeve Brenner - Himself - interviewee (as Rabbi Reeve Brenner)
Hank Greenberg Hank Greenberg - Himself (archive footage)
Walter Matthau Walter Matthau - Himself - interviewee
Alan M. Dershowitz Alan M. Dershowitz - Himself - interviewee (as Alan Dershowitz)
Carl Levin Carl Levin - Himself - interviewee (as Senator Carl Levin)
Stephen Greenberg Stephen Greenberg - Himself - interviewee
Joseph Greenberg Joseph Greenberg - Himself - interviewee (as Joe Greenberg)
Max Ticktin Max Ticktin - Himself - interviewee (as Rabbi Max Ticktin)
Bill Mead Bill Mead - Himself - interviewee
Lou Gehrig Lou Gehrig - Himself (archive footage)
Basil 'Mickey' Briggs Basil 'Mickey' Briggs - Himself - interviewee
Don Shapiro Don Shapiro - Himself - interviewee
Bert Gordon Bert Gordon - Himself - interviewee
Joe Falls Joe Falls - Himself - interviewee
Henry Ford Henry Ford - Himself (archive footage)

Reviews: [20]

  • avatar


    I've seen this promoted, most of the time, as a movie for Jewish people because it is about their first big baseball idol, Hank Greenberg. A lot of the material here deals with how big an idol Hank was to all the Jews in Amercia back then. I found that interesting, but I watched it simply because I love baseball, especially the "old days" and am thrilled to see footage of any Major League baseball games and stars from the first half of the 20th century. If there is a human-interest behind the diamond heroics, all the better! It's amazing the degree Greenberg was literally worshiped by the Jewish people make in the 1930s and 1940s.

    Greenberg was a likable guy and I enjoyed seeing him talk here and there from an interview he did in the early '80s, talking about his career. He isn't a braggart, but he's not that modest, either. He knew he was very good. He didn't make excuses either when he didn't accomplish he wanted, like hitting 60 homers one season. Sadly, some of the commentators like attorney Alan Dershowitz are not so unbiased. His paranoia is more than evident, claiming they didn't want a Jewish man breaking Ruth's record so they wouldn't throw strikes to him. That's proved a lie in the next minute when they show Cleveland ace Bob Feller striking him out several times in a late-season game as Hank was stuck at 58 and never made it to 60. To his credit, Greenberg said those claims were false, anyway.

    I enjoyed not only seeing Greenberg smash the ball but witnessing some of his famous and not-so-famous teammates in footage, too, and also interviewed in their older age - guys like Charlie Gehringer, a great second baseman on Hank's winning teams in Detroit.

    Greenberg was one of a number of great baseball players who gave up years of his ballplayer prime to serve in the military during World war II, as it is pointed out here. He left at the age of 31 and came back at 35.....and wound up hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to enable the Tigers to win the pennant! It might have been his greatest hit. The Tigers went on to cap off the season with a World Series win over the Cubs

    That's one reason (besides the recent steroids scandal) baseball records aren't as meaningful as people think. Guys like Greenberg and Boston's Ted Williams lost 4-5 years of their prime years in baseball. Who knows what their final totals would be had their been no war?

    I liked what Greenberg said near the end of this long documentary, something I wish more athletes of today would say (and believe): "I"ve tried to pattern my life on the fact that I'm out there in the limelight, so to speak, and that there are a lot of kids out there. If I set a good example for them, maybe it will, in some way, affect their lives."

    Amen to that.
  • avatar


    Admittedly, this movie is not for everyone. It is for baseball nuts, people with an interest in Jewish life in America (even if they aren't Jewish themselves), people interested in 20th Century American history, and Tigers fans. I fit the first three categories (I'm a Yankee fan but with a lot of respect for the Tiger franchise), and I thought this movie was terrific. Greenberg was not the first Jewish baseball player, but he was the first to become a star and a hero to non-Jews, paving the way for Sandy Koufax and current Dodger star Shawn Green (as well as Rod Carew, who married a Jewish woman and, as Adam Sandler has pointed out in song, converted). The often terrible anti-Semitism that was often faced in pre-World War II America has been obscured -- it's almost as if the Nazi Holocaust was the only indignity that Jews have suffered. Ms. Kempner did a fantastic job bringing this era of baseball, Jewish life and Detroit life to someone not part of that place, time and faith. And I didn't think this film it was much like the Ken Burns miniseries at all. For one thing, the music was better than in the Burns film, at least until you got to the 1950s songs in "Seventh Inning"! And except for covering Ty Cobb thoroughly, Burns paid little attention to the Tigers. He covered Greenberg's 58-homer season (1938) and mentioned that Denny McLain won 31 games in 1968, but that's it. He didn't even mention Al Kaline except in a story that Bill "Spaceman" Lee told. He didn't cover post-Black Sox Chicago baseball very well either, or California except to discuss Koufax. But what can you do with over 100 years of baseball in 19 hours? Kempner did very well with 75 years of life, and what amounted to 10 full seasons of baseball, in an hour and a half. Greenberg may not have lasted as long in the game as some of its other stars, but his seasons, in baseball and out, were full indeed, and the movie shows this excellently.
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    As a young girl, I remember his name so well. However, the documentary brought back so many memories. I can't believe that I had actually forgotten about "Greenberg Gardens." I also was somewhat amazed that there were more young people in the audience, than usually seen in a film, that I thought would basically attract older people. Which goes to prove that baseball is and always has been a great national pastime. As a much older girl now, I'm still enamored of him as much as ever. Also the fine production and direction that went with it. Hank, I'll never forget you.

    P.S. 2017 (update) Rereading and must add that the film was particularly nostalgic...My husband, Roy was one of Hank's greatest fans.. They attended the same High School in The Bronx.....Even though being a boy from The Bronx, Roy still always rooted for The Detroit Tigers..Ell-4 remained faithful to The Brooklyn Dodgers till they left Ebbets Field and went to LA
  • avatar


    A sprightly, lovingly researched, rather misty eyed sports documentary that steeped in ethnic pride. At first the movie is inspiring in a conventional, hero-treads-a-national-icon way. Greenberg, the towering Jewish slugger from the Bronx, joins the Detroit Tigers as a first baseman in the early '30s and becomes a power-hitting warhorse, leading the team from one World Series to the next.

    Greenberg defines the image of fearless, cleft-chinned American invincibility.
  • avatar


    As was the case with Walter Kephart of the August 12th review, I am a member of two of the three groups he said would enjoy this movie. "The Life and Times" falls into the trap of most biographies, as there was little suspense to the plot, but it was one of the more entertaining and enjoyable movies I've seen lately. It served as a reminder that, in an age of million dollar athletes and cynical fans, there have been superstars with character. Hank Greenberg could not have picked a more difficult time this century to evolve as a Jewish athlete than during the depression-era 1930's. At a time when Nazism rose in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, in the city of Henry Ford and Father Coughlin, Hank Greenberg persevered, overcoming anti-Semitic prejudice to lead his Detroit Tigers to four American League pennants and two World Championships, all the while putting together some of the better offensive statistics in baseball. He was also loyal to his religion and his country, as was demonstrated by not playing on Yom Kippur and sacrificing five years of his playing career to serve in the United States Army during the Second World War. The other forms of media used by Aviva Kempner, including movie clips such as "Gentleman's Agreement," Mandy Patinkin's Yiddish rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and interviews with people ranging from Alan Dershowitz to Al Rosen to the late Walter Matthau all helped illustrate the Hank Greenberg story. A Toronto Star columnist considered "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" to be the one must-see movie for the summer of 2000. It is definitely worth the price of admission, certainly moreso than nine out of ten movies playing these days.
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    I bought this DVD because of my life-long passion for baseball history, not as someone interested in seeing a story about a Jewish ballplayer. I am always interested in knowing more about these baseball greats of the past, and this documentary did include facts and stories that I did not know, and I enjoyed the interviews of other ballplayers of the same era. Some were greats of the game as well, some were not, but it is wonderful to put a face and a voice to the photos and stats I grew up memorizing as a kid. The documentary was trying so hard to be an exact copy of the Ken Burns style of film making, so much though that it does serve as a distraction, a feeling of unoriginality dimmishes what could have been a great documentary. With that complaint asside, I felt it succeeded in conveying the whole person behind the Stats, behind the Legend, and the WWII Veteran. 8/10
  • avatar


    I'm not American, I'm not Jewish, and I don't like (or understand) baseball. But this film is perfect. For the first time, I can understand the connection between baseball and the American psyche. Every American kid (of any age) should see this. Thank you, Aviva.
  • avatar


    As a bigtime baseball fan, I was very happy to find this. Hank Greenberg was one of the best players the game has ever had, he was jewish in a time of rampent anti-Semitism(well, in places at least as the documentary shows), who both served as a role model and example of class in the face of all that.

    He was also: in WWII for 4.5 years, made a run at Ruth's Record of 60 in '38(finished with 58), on a team that got into 4 Series and won 2 of them, a prosperous business man and baseball GM in the 50s and 60s. He was a hero for many a Jewish baseball fan back when, and was shown giving Jackie Robinson a helping hand when things were going badly for Robbie in '47...Robinson was quite thankful for the big man's kind words, according to this.

    Plus face it-you get some priceless interviews with his teammates-Billy Rogell, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser, etc. I loved all this, And the footage of the '34-5, '40 and '45 WS he was involved in-can't beat it.

    Not fast paced, not meant for the MTV audience, but as a time capsule and fond memorial to a good man-it does its job very well.

    ***1/2 outta ****
  • avatar


    Interesting documentary about Hank Greenberg, the Detroit Tigers slugger who was the first major Jewish baseball star. Greenberg braved bigotry in one of the most anti-Semitic cities, and became one of baseball's great stars of the period. The film is good, but presents too much detail of Greenberg's life; every single statistical detail of his playing days is simply unnecessary. Mainly because of this, the film drags a little and is slow at times. A better idea might have been for a film about early Jewish baseball players, with a focus on Greenberg. Still, a good documentary about an important and interesting subject.
  • avatar


    This film about baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg proves to be an interesting and well researched documentary full of ethnic pride. Although not the first Jewish baseball player, but the first to not change his name. The lumbering slugger from the Bronx joined the Detroit Tigers in 1930; turning out to be a stout warhorse playing first-base and waving a thunderous bat. The power hitter soon led the Tigers to a World Series in 1935. Hank came close to breaking Babe Ruth's home run record in 1938, missing by three hitting 58. Revered by all American Jews during the depression-era, when the popularity of Nazism rose; Greenberg served in WWII and came back to the Tigers and ended his career playing one year for the Pittsburg Pirates in 1947; during that swan song season, he befriended the Dodger's rookie Jackie Robinson. Greenberg entered the Hall of Fame in 1956 and died thirty years later. This documentary is woven with vintage still shots, newsreel footage, newspaper headlines and testimonials and interviews from people like Rabbi Reeve Brenner, actor Walter Matthau, Alan Dershowitz, Senator Carl Levin, Rabbi Max Tickin and even Greenberg himself and his heirs. Kudos to writer and director Aviva Kempner for this look at a baseball icon.
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    This is not just an excellent film about Hank Greenberg, it is an excellent film about discrimination, and how one man took the high road to overcome it. This is a film that should be shown to young people in civics or history classes as the basis for discussion of anti-semitism in North America.
  • avatar


    While skipping some details which would be interest to the devoted baseball-phile (like how he compared to his near contemporary Ted Williams), this is a wonderful and charming look at this baseball and American great. This movie appeals not only from a baseball and Jewish perspective, but touches upon what it means to be an American. Highly recommended.
  • avatar


    This film that profiles Hank Greenberg's life (the first ever Jewish ballplayer) is quite interesting. Mainly because I didn't know much about Greenberg before the movie. Except he was a Jewish ballplayer. But what I didn't know was that he was the first Jewish one, which meant that anti-semitism came to him like homeruns. For old people who probably know already about Hank, it is quite a memory flashback that will have some even laughing (especially with the very end showing a Marx bros. clip). For everyone else, it is interesting and of course (and like how most documentaries should be) it is for people who might not even care for the game or the man. One of the best sports documentaries to come around in a while. A-
  • avatar


    This film is deserving of at least as much publicity as other films receive. I saw no publicity at all on it in Westchester County (NY) and only stumbled upon it out of curiosity when I saw the two words, "HANK GREENBERG", on the theater marquee on my way home from work. I learned that it was the last night that it would be shown anywhere in Westchester and that the movie had already started. I decided to go in and catch the last 2/3 of the picture, which I found to be excellent. It was very well done with sentimental and stirring musical background. I learned a great deal about Hank Greenberg from it, but I also found it to be a nostalgic period-piece, of great historical and cultural value. You do not have to know anything about baseball to truly appreciate and enjoy this film. It is inspirational, sentimental, and exciting, especially for Jewish people or anyone interested in 20th century American Jewish culture. I think that this film will serve as a classic documentary and is truly exceptional. I hope that my family and friends may have a chance to see it sometime in the future, and I highly recommend this film to anyone, especially as a family film. It is rated "G", but I would rate it "A".
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    This documentary is aimed to appeal to three groups, Jews, baseball fans and members of the greatest generation. Since I am in two of those three groups I found it very appealing. I would have liked more detail on his experiences during the war and on his activities after his playing days were over. This period was glossed over very quickly as was his personal married life. There were other Jewish baseball players and mention of those would have been interesting. I had been looking forward to seeing it and was glad and surprised that it came to Richmond and gave me a very enjoyable time in the motion picture theater.
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    This is a superbly done movie. It covers not only his career but his effects on the Jewish community. From the opening Yiddish "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" through the interviews with the men who were influenced by his life and became very successful, the movie is exceedingly well done.
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    It probably helps if you're a Jewish man over 60, but you won't need any help to be just blown away by this documentary. It's may be worth going just for the clips of the Marx Brothers, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" sung in Yiddish, and the Spencer Tracy/Kate Hepburn clips. It's really a documentary of America in the mid-thirties through the mid forties, and a commentary on how one extraordinary man represented his heritage in difficult times. The interviews, the footage, Bronx in the Depression, all of this works so well together that at the end the audience cannot help but applaud (it happened both times I saw it). Do not miss this jewel.
  • avatar


    THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG is a fascinating documentary about one of the most dominant hitters in major league ball during the 30s and 40s--though few would recall him today. I realized that it was a very good film because I am NOT a big sports fan yet I found myself unable to stop watching. That's because the focus on the film wasn't strictly on his exploits on the field. Sure he could hit a ton of home runs, RBIs and had a high batting average, but the real story was about his being Jewish during an era when people were very open and ugly with their antisemitism. However, instead of painting him as a victim, the film excels because it discusses not only how he was soon accepted but helped show the way America changed from the time of Greenberg to that of the first Black big leaguer, Jackie Robinson. This logical progression help make this a much more interesting film than simply stating statistics and talking about home run titles or MVP awards.

    The film itself was constructed using archival interviews with Greenberg (who'd died over a decade before the film was made) as well as interviews with people who knew or played with him. Most of the interviews were pretty interesting though some of the incidental music they used was distracting as often they kept repeating the same songs again and again ("Hold That Tiger" and several other songs were so overplayed that I now hate them). This was not a huge problem, but did make the production seem a bit less polished. Overall, this is a lovely historical documentary that may not impress people who hate sports but even then, there should be enough to even interest them.

    By the way, when the credits roll, don't stop watching. A few more interviews appear later--and the first one where you hear the two elderly ball players talking about modern ball players was really funny and poignant.
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    THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG / (2000) * (out of four) By Blake French: The problem with documentaries like "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" is that they are for such a specific audience; only people interested in the Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg will find the movie interesting. I have little excitement about the late individual, who sparked life into the game in the 1930's, and I found no enjoyment in the production. "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" is specifically about the life and era of Hank Greenberg, nothing more, nothing less. Unless you are a big-time fan of the sports legend, most audiences will find this lackluster and tedious documentary a slow walk through yawn inducing interviews and commentaries from a variety of people involved in the life of Greeberg, from his friends and family, to his teammates, both Jewish and Non-Jewish. People ranging from politician Carl Levin, to talk show host Maury Provich, to the late actor Walter Mathau, many famous celebrities offer their interpretation of the popularity of the baseball hero, who also greatly inspired the Jewish community and led the Detroit tigers to Major League dominance. But the movie is not about baseball, it is about Hank Greenberg, thus the reason I did not care about a single thing that transpired. There are some documentaries that focus specifically on an individual or group of individuals but entertain with an energetic and colorful mood. In "Barenaked in America," even audiences not familiar with The Canadian pop band, The Barenaked Ladies, will find themselves being inspired by the lively music and amusing atmosphere. "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" almost put me to sleep. The flavor is dry and bland, the energy is lacking and the commentaries are mind-numbingly boring. Even loyal fans of baseball may find themselves disappointed in the old-fashioned style and style content. I do have to give the movie credit for being a great information tool about Hank Greenberg; it offers plenty of useful material on the man's sports life, personal livelihood and relationships, opinions, religion, and setting. Audiences can certainly learn from this movie, just not in an entertaining fashion.
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    Instead of an insightful exploration of Hank Greenberg's impact on American Society and its impact on him, this movie is just a highlight reel of a baseball star from 65 years ago whose main impact on the game was that he happened to be a Jew. The interviews, many with celebrities (Walter Matthau, Alan Dershowitz), all of whom idolize Greenberg, add very little.

    And I thought I would love this. I like baseball, I love American Jewish history, and I enjoy good documentaries. Warning: This is not a good documentary. It's not even as good as the Biography series on A&E. I walked out.