This Day in Baseball: 2/15

On this day in 1946, Hank Greenberg signed a $60,000 contract with the Detroit Tigers.  Three days after signing the contract, Greenberg married Caral Gimbel, New York City department store heiress.  Hammerin’ Hank would follow that contract up with a season in which he led the American League in both home runs and runs batted in, with 44 and 127 respectively.

The 1946 season was Hank’s first full season after returning from service in World War II, and it would be his last MVP caliber season. The following season, he received a raise to a record $85,000 contract before being sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Greenberg’s lone season with the Pirates was a disappointment. The 36-year-old could only muster 25 home runs and retired at the conclusion of the season.

For his career, Greenberg hit 331 home runs and drove in 1276 runs with a lifetime .313 batting average.  Those numbers do not paint the full picture of Greenberg’s status as an all-time great hitter, as he missed nearly five full seasons for military service during World War II. Although he was honorably discharged in 1941, Greenberg continued to serve until 1945, accumulating 47 months of service, the most of any ballplayer.

Greenberg is one of only six players to hit over 60 doubles in a season and his 1937 RBI total of 183 ranks third all time.  Along with Lou Gehrig, he is the only player with multiple seasons with over 170 runs batted in.  Greenberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956.

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