THE BLOG
05/21/2014 06:01 pm ET Updated Jul 21, 2014

A Story of Two 'Hanks'

Another found "gem" from my Dad.

This was published in The Battlefield Guide. I am not sure what that publication is (or was) exactly. However, there are things about this article that just do not sound like my Dad, even though the article had his by-line. In the same folder I found a letter of complaint, something my Dad was famous for, that criticized an editor, maybe The Battlefield Guide Editor? Here is an excerpt:

"Your style of editing leaves a lot to be desired. The job you did on my last article was so emasculated, the thrust of what I intended was lost in translation. I would have preferred that you omitted it entirely." It goes on further to say "Do not regard this letter as another crank note from an 'over the hill' cantankerous curmudgeon, but rather be aware of my constructive sarcastic criticism for future reference."

It was signed; C.M. (in a grouchy mood) Hangsterfer. Now THAT sounds like my Dad! His style is not reflected so much in the piece below. What do you think?

2014-05-20-theTwoHanks.jpg

There are strange things done in the army by the men overseas, some of the tales so grim they would make one's blood run icy. However, as eerie as they may be there are others to make the balance causing the dark stark memories to become lighter. Many of both crowd in on me but the queerest one I remember took place in October of 1942 in Glasgow. Now it happens that my name resembles that of a pre-war baseball hero, Hank Greenberg. Just the "Hank" part you understand.

The setting of this tale as you may well imagine takes place around the soldiers' haven of refuge. Yes, yes... I was "belting them down," scotch in Scotland, when I noticed some of my buddies at a near-by table whispering energetically. Unconcerned at the moment because I was engrossed in my own "indoor-sport" of taking a reconnaissance of the local color -- i.e. Jolie femmes (that's French).

However I did become more and more aware that my buddies were enjoying a joke without my being "in on it!" So I decided to do something about it. I took myself to the "communications center" (W.C. to you) knowing that there I would find a solution. Usually one can eavesdrop and pick up the scoop.

Completely enmeshed in my task of eavesdropping when I was pulled back to the world of reality by a little soldier saying, "You have been my idol since I was so high, Hank... er, er I mean Sir, Lieutenant Greenberg." Well he looked so sincere and happy at meeting what he "thought" was his idol of the diamond.... well... who was I to disillusion him? Then he said, "Do you mind if I shake your hand?" With all the pomp befitting my newly acquired prestige, I stuck out my "mitt" and gave him a hardy shake.

I made it back to my table chuckling to myself only to find a young lady waiting, yes... can you imagine... waiting for me. "Hello," she said "I've seen your picture in the New York papers many times and I've seen you play. I am so thrilled to meet some one as famous as you." Here I was again... a celebrity... just like that. So rising to the occasion, I dutifully thanked her and admitted that I had played ball. In Detroit to be exact? Detroit being the name of a city in which I had NEVER been.

Well the conversation that followed gave me her story, omitting all references to my career as "The First Base Man." She was an American stranded in Glasgow, a medical student at the University when the war set in. Now the sad part of this saga for me was I could not accept her invitation to join her later as I was otherwise engaged. But having no fear... being the "same old Hank"... I asked for a rain check for the following evening. Little did I realize that it was my last night in the British Isles for a long time. The following day I was sent off to invade North Africa.

You'll never know how I worried about that night. To think that I could be mistaken for a great baseball player... Did my "buddies" set-up everyone to think that I was "Hank Greenberg?" Was the joke on them or me?

I have no doubt that the incident happened, I just don't think that is the way my Dad would have told it. Having read so many of his stories I am getting to know his writing style, this isn't his style. Good writing, but not him.

My "Hank" always had a very dry sense of humor, something I really didn't "get" until I was about forty. I really don't think my Mother ever got his sense of humor. One night at dinner we were laughing at some story or joke my Dad was telling. I turned to my Mom and said "Why aren't you laughing?" She replied "I would if I thought it was funny!" At which my Dad retorted, "Toughest audience of my life!"