(As in “shameless self-promotion.”) Actually yesterday would have been the perfect time as it would have been Hank Greenberg‘s 106th birthday. Considering that Tyrus Wong, illustrator for the classic Walt Disney flick Bambi, recently died at that age, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Hammerin’ Hank could still be with us.
As you may know, my new book, Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War, is due out on April 4. As the title states, it focuses on that one season during which Greenberg was within a few long foul balls from wresting the single season home run record of 60 away from Babe Ruth. Ruth had set the mark in 1927, but there was no pressure, no competition: if he broke his former record, well and good. If not, no big deal. He was enjoying a fun ride.
But as Ruth grew into a fat old man, a new generation of sluggers — Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Rudy York, and Greenberg — were poised to usurp his place in the record books, although no one could replace him as a legendary character and the man who many credit with “saving” the game following the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Those guys felt the pressure, especially from journalists hungry for sensational story lines. And as the season wore on and time was running out, that pressure built even more.
Of course, baseball was just a minor matter compared with what was going on in Europe. Hitler was creating bigger headlines every day as he stepped up his goal of world domination. The book compares and contrasts, using Greenberg and Judaism as the focal points (not all the anti-Semites were in Germany).
Hank Greenberg in 1938 is entering the home stretch now, having gone through a couple of rounds of edits before the proofreading, followed by the bound galleys or ‘arcs’ (advanced reader copies) which will be sent to reviewers in advance of the release date.
With a couple of books in the bank, I know enough to both enjoy the bustle and excitement of the weeks ahead as well as not having grand expectations that this will wind up on the New York Times‘ best-seller list. (No false modesty, just keepin’ it real.) Anyway, it keeps me busy and from being too depressed about not having a full-time job yet.