Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hammerin' Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer by Shelley Sommer

Hammerin' Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer
By Shelley Sommer
Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press, 2011
ISBN 9781590784525
This reviewer obtained a copy of this book from the public library.

Most children are well acquainted with baseball greats Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Lou Gehrig, yet few have heard of Hank Greenberg. Shelley Sommer, a middle school literature teacher and library director, is trying to change that with this biography of Hammerin' Hank, the first Jewish major league baseball player.

Hank Greenberg played for the Detroit Tigers from 1933 to 1946. (He served in the U.S. Air Force during WW2, from Dec. 8, 1941 – 1945) During his time with the Tigers, Greenberg was nicknamed Hammerin’ Hank because of his skill at hitting home runs. In fact, in 1938, he was two runs short of breaking Babe Ruth’s 60 home run record! And, in 1956, Greenberg was the first Jewish baseball player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

The many-layered book is more of an overview of Greenberg’s career. The author also highlights what it was like to be Jewish at a time when Anti-Semitism was escalating because of the growing turbulence in Germany that would become World War 2. Greenberg faced discrimination both on and off the field, yet he never let it outwardly affect his game or his attitude towards others.

This is not a book for reluctant readers. Instead, it is for those who enjoy a well-researched biography that goes beyond talking about details of every baseball game. Sommer’s includes a lot of historical detail and how it influenced Greenberg’s career and the attitude of those around him.

The book is chock full of historical black & white photos, along with further resources, a bibliography, source notes, and index. It does not include Greenberg’s baseball statistics or a time line.

4 stars
For grades 9 up.

Pair this with Hammerin' Hank: the Life of Hank Greenberg by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Walker & Company, 2006.

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