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What's the story?
Aviva Kempner's documentary THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG reveals that baseball player Hank Greenberg was that rarest of sports stars, someone who was as good as his fans hoped he was -- in fact, he was even better. Kempner combines stock footage and contemporary interviews with fans, friends, family, and teammates to give a glowing portrait of Greenberg, who died in 1986, and, as the title promises, of his era. Accomplished, distinguished men get teary-eyed as they talk about how much Hank Greenberg meant to them when they were growing up. Lawyer-to-the-stars Alan Dershowitz says, "Baseball was our way of showing that we were as American as anyone else." "We" meant Jews. Hank Greenberg wasn't the first Jewish baseball player, but he was the first one to be proudly Jewish. He did not change his name or hide his religion. And he was a star. Dershowitz said, "He was what they said Jews could never be." Greenberg faced a lot of prejudice, but never took it personally and never became bitter. Not a religious or observant man, he was very aware of his role as a symbol, and, as a fan notes, "he wore his Jewishness on his sleeve and in his heart." At the end of his career, he helped support another baseball player he perhaps understood better than anyone -- Jackie Robinson.
Is it any good?
Brilliant documentary-maker Aviva Kempner has created a gem of a movie to lift the spirit of anyone who cares about baseball -- or heroes. One of the great treats of The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg is to see not just how well Greenberg handled adversity, but how well he handled fame and success, remaining humble, honest, and dedicated through it all.
Perhaps most revealing of Greenberg's character was the one statistic that he cared about, in this most statistic-ridden of sports -- RBIs. He loved being the one who batted clean-up, "the guy that comes up at the clutch, changes the ball game, makes all the difference." He could have gone for the home run record, but he was the ultimate team player. His teammates and friends talk, also, about his dedication. He was the hardest-working of ball-players, paying anyone he could find to pitch to him for extra batting practice and even stripping down in a friend's dress-making studio so he could examine his batting stance in a three-way mirror.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about America's history of prejudice and about the different ways that people handle adversity -- and success. How is it addressed in The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg?
How did Hank Greenberg demonstrate teamwork? Why is this an important character strength?
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