The Story of My Life
by Hank Greenberg
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GREENBERG: We lost the first game. [Greenberg went hitless in three times at bat—grounding to third twice and popping to third—as the Tigers were shut out 3–0, Lon Warneke over Schoolboy Rowe.] And I learned that the Cubs were a bunch of tough SOBs. Charlie Root, Larry French, four or five other guys, they started riding me, calling me Jew this and Jew that. Behind the plate was Umpire George Moriarty; he walked over to the Cubs’ bench and told them to stop riding me. They said it was none of his goddamned business and that they would ride me if they pleased. Moriarty got into a beef with one of the ballplayers. And later Landis fined him, as well as some of the Cub players.
BERKOW: “Moriarty stopped the game in the second inning while he walked to the Cub dugout to warn Manager [Charlie] Grimm he would clear the bench if they didn’t stop razzing Greenberg,” the Associated Press reported.
“The Cub bench continually shouted at the Tigers from start to finish of the game, with Greenberg, whose station was nearest to the bench, taking most of the verbal sallies. . . . Billy Herman, Frank Demaree, and Bill Jurges were the Cub players who were singled out for oral potshots by the Tigers. . . .”
A story in the New York Sun quoted Moriarty: “No ballplayer can call me the names they did and get away with it. I told Grimm at Detroit if I heard any more such profanity as they yelled at Greenberg that I’d chase five of them off the bench with Grimm leading the procession.”
One of the players on the Cubs, a rookie outfielder named Tuck Stainback, who would later be a teammate of Greenberg’s in Detroit, recalled years later that some of his Cub teammates “got on Hank’s back. . . . I remember Jurges hollering, ‘Throw him a pork chop, he’ll never hit it!’” Jurges years later recalled the 1935 Series: “It’s ribbing each other. What the hell.”
Did he remember the pork chop line?
“Oh, no,” he said, “I don’t remember anything like that. But we’d kid back and forth. The thing is, years ago the benches used to ride different ballplayers. It was a common thing. That’s the way it was. In regard to Hank, I don’t remember anything serious. He was a helluva guy. He could swing a bat, there’s no question about it.”
Phil Cavarretta, the Cubs’ first baseman then, remembered that “the language was kind of rough. Detroit was on some of our players. We tried to retaliate. We figured if we got on them a little heavy this would disturb them and they would lose some of their concentration when they were at bat. . . . Like I say, some of the words were sort of foul. This is what Hank didn’t like. Naturally, the umpire, Moriarty, said knock this stuff off. If you’re going to get on somebody, clean the words up. But they kept on. I was only a nineteen-year-old kid at the time. I’d get up there and I’d hear it—‘you dirty dago’ and ‘wop’ and things like that. With an Italian, if they call you a dirty dago that’s pretty heavy. This upsets you. But getting back to Hank, some of the words shouldn’t be printed.”
Like calling him a Jewish son of a bitch, or something along those lines?
“Yeah, they were kind of fighting words.”
After the first game, wrote Tom Meany in the New York World-Telegram, Greenberg “had nothing to say about the bench jockeying.”
“‘It’s all in the game,’ said Hank. ‘Why squawk about it now? I was a sucker to let them get my goat.’”
After the season, though, Greenberg did talk about it.
GREENBERG: I told the papers that I thought the Cubs should have been fined and that Moriarty [who apparently retorted to the Cubs with profanity of his own] should have been exonerated instead of being fined. Landis got mad and wrote me a long, formal letter. “How dare you say this, what did you hear? Tell me what you heard,” etc.
BERKOW: Part of the commissioner’s letter to Greenberg, on October 30, read: “. . . you are requested to forward to me, in affidavit form, your testimony respecting the subject matter, and specifically, the language used between players Herman, Jurges and English and umpire Moriarty. That language was the occasion of the fines. . . .”
Greenberg wrote back: “I wish to state that I did not overhear any part of the argument between Moriarty and players. Therefore I could not be more explicit in my last letter.”
GREENBERG: Landis got on me like a district attorney. I said that I didn’t hear anything, but I just assumed. He told me not to assume anything. If I had anything to say, back it up, or keep my mouth shut. But that’s the way he ran baseball, with an iron fist, and that’s the reason baseball prospered at that time.
Much later in my career George Moriarty and I became very good friends. Back in the early 1900s he played third base for Detroit, and he used to steal home. Somebody wrote a poem about him, and the title was “Never Die on Third Moriarty.” All through the rest of his life George felt he knew something about stealing home. When he was umpiring on third base, and on occasion when I’d get on third, he coached me on how to take a lead so I could steal home. I never had the guts enough to try, because I didn’t think I could make it. I’d run down the line, and he’d keep insisting that I take a bigger lead. I was always afraid that I was going to get picked off. But it was interesting to see Moriarty, who was umpiring at third base, coaching me on how to steal home for the Tigers. It became a joke among the players, but I never got up the nerve to try it.
From Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life by Hank Greenberg with Ira Berkow.
Copyright © 1989, 2001 by the Estate of Henry Greenberg. Excerpted with permission.