Honesty--Will It Get a Man What He Really Wants?, part 3
a discussion about Hank Greenberg
By Michael Palmer
IN A DRAMATIC AND HISTORIC MEETING
more season, in which he led the league in homers, Greenberg was coldly
traded by Detroit to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League.
This was 1947, the year Jackie Robinson became the first Black player to
perform in the major leagues, ending the game's most shameful chapter--the
barring of players because of their color. Meanwhile, in this first
season, Robinson met horrible racism. Even some of his teammates
took out a petition against his being allowed to play. When the Dodgers
faced the Pirates, Greenberg heard insults again, but this time they were
directed at Robinson, from the stands, from the Pirates dugout. Ironically,
early in the game, Robinson and Greenberg collided on a play at first base.
Several innings later, Robinson came to first base. Greenberg turned to
him and said, "I forgot to ask you if you were hurt on that play." Assured
by Robinson he wasn't, Greenberg said to him, "Stick in there, you're doing
fine. Keep your chin up." And then he said, "you're going to be a
great player." Robinson was heartened. The headline in the sports
section the next day read, HANK GREENBERG A HERO TO DODGERS' NEGRO STAR."
Robinson told a reporter, "Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg."
In his honesty about Robinson, his care for the facts, Greenberg was truly
care of himself, for that moment and for all time.
THE FIGHT ABOUT HONESTY
AND WHAT LOOKS LIKE SUCCESS
But Hank Greenberg
was also attracted by something else--money. He became close friends
with a millionaire businessman, Louis Marx whom he admired because he was--in
Greenberg's words--"self-made, self-educated and built a tremendous personal
empire." Greenberg would later go into the financial investment business
with Marx's brother David. And it was through the Marx's, that he
met and married Caral Gimbel of the Department Store family. They
had three children, and while there is much to know about their marriage,
there is evidence that they pretty much went their separate ways.
After 12 years they were divorced. Mr. Siegel writes, "When we no
longer wish to know, or when our desire to know becomes weaker, or flaccid,
or secondary--that much our honesty is being shown the door." While this
was true of his wife, Greenberg, who as a player was once called, "the
most energetic researcher in baseball," clearly did not have that energy
in wanting to know her. And while a subsequent marriage fared better,
his second wife would say, "I don't think he ever understood my feelings."
Early in our marriage, I found myself feeling that Lynette's life should
revolve primarily around what I was doing and thinking about, and it was
having a bad effect on both of us. In a class discussion Ellen Reiss
said to me:
If you want
a person to like the world, a way is to be really interested [in that person].
[Ask] how does that person want to see? How does that person want
to think? Lynette Abel wants [this kind of thought] and you do too.
I thank Ms. Reiss for her
kind seeing. I am experiencing true pleasure knowing my wife whose
interest in music, literature, her passion that justice come to people,
adds so much to my life, and whose criticism encourages me to be a wider,
more honest person.
When Hank Greenberg retired as a player, he became an executive with the
Cleveland Indians and later with the Chicago White Sox. He played
a key role in more Black and Hispanic players getting their rightful chance
in the major leagues. But Greenberg was also negotiating contracts
with players, trying to give them as little as possible to increase the
team's earnings. One of those players, Al Rosen, recalling a contract
hassle after he had had a great season, said of Greenberg, "He reduced
me to ashes....he could be a very tough negotiator." He said that
Greenberg would take out a book listing his own accomplishments as a player
to lessen what Rosen had done. Eli Siegel has shown that our unjust
economy based on the making of profit at the expense of others--is against
the nature, the honesty of man. "Man was not made to be used by man for
money, he stated, "That's all there is to it. It is a corruption,
it is artifice." I feel Greenberg was ashamed of himself for making money
this way, and in 1963, eventually quit the game completely, saying bitterly,
"Baseball [is] a cold, cruel business."
Hank Greenberg's desire to be honest was to show itself again in one of
baseball's most critical times. In 1970, St. Louis outfielder Curt
Flood, after being traded to the Phillies, refused to report and sued baseball
over the Reserve Clause--a legal form of slavery that bound a player to
a team for life unless traded or sold--a key reason so many players were
left with little or nothing when their careers ended. Who would stand
with Flood at this critical time? Of all the owners or former owners,
only two men stepped forward--Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg. Testifying
at the trial, Greenberg said, "I [was] a ballplayer...a general manager
as well as a clubowner, I understand Curt Flood's point of view....the
reserve clause [is] unfair." Though Flood did not win the suit, it was
the first step in the players gaining free agency four years later, and
getting the kind of money that had been rightfully theirs all along.
In a class, Miss Reiss said, "[Honesty] has in it, 'I want to give all
of me to the object and I want to be exact.'" At this time, Greenberg could
have helped the then fledgling baseball players union, but he chose to
spend his time in stock investing and playing tennis in rich, private clubs
in California. He died in 1986. In his final years he would
refuse requests to write about his life, saying "someday I'll do something
really great, and I want to wait until that time to write my book."
This shows how against himself he was for not being true to what had made
him one of the most cared for athletes of the past century.
I am seeing that through the whole desire of the self to know itself and
be fair to the world, a man gets what he really wants, and it is satisfying,
it is really living!