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November 05, 2001|Larry Stewart

What: "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" DVD

Price: $29.98

In the 1930s, Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers became a hero to Jewish people throughout the nation. In 1938 he came within two home runs of Babe Ruth's record of 60 in a season. He was named the American League's most valuable player in 1935 and '40. He finished his career with a .313 batting average.

He was a powerful 6-foot-4, 215-pound secular Jew from the Bronx who was often called "the baseball Moses." He was handsome and uncommonly good-natured.

The Ciesla Foundation, created to improve the image of Jewish people on the screen, and director Aviva Kempner in 1999 made the highly acclaimed documentary "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg." It earned nearly $2 million at the box office and won a number of awards, including best nonfiction film of the year.

Through Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, the documentary became available on DVD this month. It can be ordered through or by calling (800) 731-7171. A VHS tape that can now be rented at video stores will become available for sale ($19.98) on Nov. 16.

The title for this 95-minute film is appropriate in that it not only tells the story of Greenberg's life but also of a time when anti-Semitism was prevalent in our society. "I wasn't just a bum, I was a Jewish bum," Greenberg said during a 1984 interview.

Greenberg, who played in the majors from 1933 through '47, minus the four years he served in the Army during World War II, died of cancer on Sept. 4, 1986, at 75.

The film is chock full of footage from Greenberg's playing days and includes interviews with Greenberg's children, his first wife, friends, teammates and fans. Greenberg's son, Stephen, former deputy baseball commissioner, was the co-founder of the Classic Sports Network, which became ESPN Classic.

Actor Walter Matthau, who says as a kid he wanted to be Hank Greenberg, adds: "I joined the Beverly Hills Tennis Club, so I could eat lunch with him. I don't even play tennis."

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