Who Said That?
By John Rosengren © 2013
an excerpt from HANK GREENBERG: The Hero of Heroes
The Chicago White Sox, led by manager Jimmy Dykes, were notorious for their bench jockeying. Dykes was an early edition Archie Bunker, in appearance and attitude. "Hey, Hank," Dykes used to shout at Greenberg. "How are you playing with three Catholics and one Hebe?" During a doubleheader at Briggs Stadium on July 1, Dykes lit into Greenberg with criticism about him skipping last year's All-Star Game. Someone-maybe Dykes-shouted at Hank when he was running down the first base line, "You big, yellow Jew bastard!"
The Chicago bench continued to harass Greenberg throughout the afternoon while he was in the field. When Joe Kuhel, a skinny guy with big ears, reached first base in the sixth inning of the second game, Hank heard the White Sox bench yell for Kuhel to spike Greenberg. Kuhel took a large lead, certain to draw a throw. When it came, he slid hard into Hank and spiked him in the foot. Hank punched Kuhel in the face. The players spilled out of both dugouts, but umpire Ed Rommel squeezed between Greenberg and Kuhel before either could throw any more punches. He ejected Hank and shepherded the players back to their positions and dugouts.
The Detroit crowd took up the attack. "Spectators started throwing anything throwable at the Chicago players," the Detroit News reported. The players shouted at them. One fan tried to jump the White Sox, but an usher wrestled him back on top of the dugout. Uniformed policemen scurried to the area to restore order. They ejected several spectators. Just when things had calmed down and play resumed, Kuhel scored and the fans renewed their attack. One chucked a bottle at Kuhel. "The policemen again invaded the warring section and once more restored order," according to the Detroit News, which deemed the incident a "minor riot."
Still upset afterward, Hank stripped off his jersey, stuffed it in his locker, swapped his spikes for his shower slippers and left without a word. He crossed the hallway to the White Sox clubhouse, walked in and announced, "I want the guy who called me a 'yellow Jew bastard' to get to his feet and say it to my face."
No one moved. Hank walked slowly around the room and looked at each of them. Kuhel. Dykes. The others. Not one of them dared stand up. Hank walked out, paused at the door to look back, then left.
"The guy with the big mouth was the luckiest guy in the world, because Greenberg would have killed him," Elden Auker said later.
Before the next day's game, Hank received a telegram from American League president William Harridge fining him fifty dollars for striking Kuhel. Dykes said he thought Greenberg should have been suspended. Harridge also upbraided the White Sox for "unsportsmanlike conduct and use of insulting and abusive language to members of the opposing team." He warned Dykes that he would have any of his players who repeated such insults ejected and suspended. In a sarcastic gesture, Dykes sent all of his reserves out to the bullpen and said, "I guess that Greenberg won't be able to hear what they say out there, and no one will get run out for saying something uncomplimentary about him taking all those called strikes."
Hank hadn't said anything to his teammates about crossing the hall, but word of him challenging the White Sox in their clubhouse spread around the league. Other players took note. They respected Hank for standing up for himself. Years later, players like the Yankees' Tommy Henrich and the Red Sox's Ted Williams repeated the story in admiration of Greenberg. "You know who stood up?" Williams liked to say as the punch line. "Nobody."
from the May 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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