"He was one of the truly great hitters, and when I first saw him at bat, he made my eyes pop out." – Joe DiMaggio
Henry Benjamin Greenberg was born on Jan. 1, 1911, in New York City. After a stellar amateur career, his hometown Yankees offered him a contract, but he opted to join the Detroit Tigers.
Greenberg would win two American League Most Valuable Player Awards in his career with Detroit. The first came in 1935 when playing first base he hit .328 and led the league in both home runs (36) and RBI (168). Greenberg's Tigers would win the World Series that year, though he missed the majority of the Fall Classic after breaking his wrist in the second game.
Greenberg earned his second MVP in 1940 as an outfielder; he batted .340 and again paced the American League in homers (41) while driving in the most runs (150). This would be the first time in MLB history that a player won an MVP award at two different positions.
War spreading across the globe in the 1940s would cut out a significant portion of Greenberg's playing career. Greenberg was initially brought into military service in May 1941, only to be honorably discharged on Dec. 5 of that year, a mere two days before the attacks at Pearl Harbor. Greenberg would immediately re-enlist. In June 1945, his military service concluded and Greenberg jumped right back into baseball.
Even though he had been away from the game for more than four years, Greenberg's skills hadn't waned. His return in the latter half of the 1945 season helped drive the Tigers to another World Series appearance. Greenberg's Fall Classic performance was spectacular, as he drove in seven runs in seven games while hitting .304, propelling the Tigers to victory over the Cubs.
In 1946, Greenberg once again leading the league in home runs (44) and RBI (127). That would be his final year as a member of the Detroit Tigers, however, as the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased his contract before the 1947 season. He would play only one season with the Pirates before retiring to take over direction of the Indians' farm system. Greenberg would shortly become their general manager and would later serve the White Sox in the same capacity.
Greenberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956. He passed away on Sept. 4, 1986.