The McCord affair harks back to Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones's firing of radio announcer Brad Sham two weeks ago. Sham had the temerity to defend his colleague, color commentator Dale Hansen, for daring to ask coach Barry Switzer in public about reports of dissension on the coaching staff. Explained Jones: "We want our broadcasts to be positive." We don't expect the tyrannical Jones to be embarrassed by his actions. But we hope CBS execs are by theirs.
With the Jewish holidays nearing and a baseball strike going on, it seems appropriate to remember the legacy of one of the great Jewish athletes of all time, Hank Greenberg, who, in the middle of a pennant race 60 years ago, staged his own one-man work stoppage for religious reasons. On Sept. 19, 1934, the day his Detroit Tigers were to meet the New York Yankees in a game that would help decide the American League pennant, Greenberg strolled not to Navin Field (later changed to Tiger Stadium) but to a nearby synagogue for Yom Kippur services.
"My father didn't bring up the great philosophical rabbis and sages on holidays," says independent filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who grew up in Detroit. "He'd say, 'I remember when Hank Greenberg didn't play on Yom Kippur.' "
Kempner detailed that and other aspects of Greenberg's Hall of Fame baseball career in The Life and Tunes of I lank Greenberg, a documentary for which Kempner hopes to secure a theatrical release by next summer. Through old interviews with Greenberg (who died eight years ago) and his fans, spliced between on-field and off-field footage, Kempner portrays a man who, 13 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, showed grace and dignity in the face of a prejudiced America. The 6'4", 215-pound Greenberg, who, as he himself put it, "shook his fist at Hitler" every time he hit a home run, represented a sign of hope for American Jews.
He could also play a little. In 1937 he knocked in 183 runs, the third-best single-season RBI mark and a total that no one has approached in more than 50 years. And the following season Greenberg finished just two home runs short of tying Babe Ruth's then record of 60. Though the military careers of players like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio got more attention, Greenberg was, in fact, the first major league star to enlist, joining the Army Air Forces at the age of 30.
Greenberg rejoined the Tigers on July 1, 1945, following his official discharge. In Detroit's final game of the season, in St. Louis, he shook his fist at the shadow of the F�hrer when he belted a ninth-inning grand slam to catapult the Tigers into the World Series, where they won for the first time in 10 years. That's a heck of an ending to any movie.
Meat, the Press
The Media Relations Playbook, handed out by the NFL to help its players deal with reporters, is a curious eight-page document that sounds like a cross between a how-to-succeed-in-business pamphlet and an etiquette primer for Forrest Gump. "Many NFL players and athletes in other sports have used the media to develop a positive image in the community," reads one section. "This often leads to important long-term business and career opportunities."
Perhaps some players take that practical advice to heart, but we've got to believe that most of them snickered when they read that they should "Stand up straight...shoulders back, head up.... Smile." If you are sitting down for an interview, the player is advised to "sit up straight and lean forward" because "it conveys interest and enthusiasm." And if you are wearing a sport coat, "leave it unbuttoned for a relaxed appearance."