The entrance to the Hank Greenberg Walk of Heroes

The Hank Greenberg Walk of Heroes will open at the Corner Ballpark in October and will include 12 stories of influential Michigan athletes.

Photography by Jason Brown

Hank Greenberg is a hero for many reasons.

In addition to his Baseball Hall of Fame credentials, the former Detroit Tigers star exhibited extraordinary dedication to his country and his religion.

He served 47 months in the U.S. Army during World War II while he was playing for the Tigers and he famously refused to play in an important game for the Tigers on Yom Kippur in 1934.

Greenberg’s name is now synonymous with other heroes. The Hank Greenberg Walk of Heroes will open to the public Friday, Oct. 4, at Detroit PAL’s the Corner Ballpark, former site of Tiger Stadium.

Funded by the William Davidson Foundation and the Greenberg family, the exhibit features 12 stories of Michiganders involved in sports — including Greenberg — who displayed exceptional character and were innovators and trailblazers.

Former Sen. Carl Levin, one of the organizers of the project, said it’s fitting the Walk of Heroes is adjacent to the old Tiger Stadium field where boxer Joe Louis fought and anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South Africa President Nelson Mandela spoke.

And the Walk of Heroes is close to the Willie Horton Field of Dreams, the diamond at the Corner Ballpark.

“The stories told on the Walk of Heroes will inspire young people to overcome the obstacles they face in their lives,” Levin said. “Everyone who reads the stories will be inspired because this is such a diverse group of heroes and heroines.”

Detroit PAL is a not-for-profit organization that partners with the Detroit Police Department to provide athletic, academic and leadership programs for Detroit’s youth.

More than 15,000 youth are impacted by Detroit PAL each year and more than 2,600 volunteers are trained to become positive coaches and mentors.

Each story on the Walk of Heroes brings life to Detroit PAL’s commitment to “Helping Youth Find Their Greatness.”

“Through their legacies, these sports legends continue to strengthen our city and region,” said Robert Jamerson, Detroit PAL’s interim CEO. “We can all learn so much from these leaders, especially the children who take part in PAL’s programs.”

In alphabetical order, here are the other honorees besides Greenberg on the Walk of Heroes:
• Hank Aguirre: Three-time All-Star pitcher for the Tigers.

• Daedra Charles-Furlow: Detroit PAL alumna, member of the 1992 U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.

• Detroit Demolition: Championship women’s full-contact football team.

• Anne Doyle: One of the first female TV sports broadcasters in the U.S.

• Brenda Gatlin: Educator and award-winning girls and boys basketball coach in Detroit Public Schools.

• Willie Horton: Ex-Tigers great.

• Jackie Kallen: Barrier-breaking female journalist and boxing manager who was the inspiration for the 2004 movie Against the Ropes, staring Meg Ryan.

• Will Robinson: The first African-American coach for a Michigan high school basketball team and NCAA Division I basketball team, and the first African-American NBA scout.

• Diane Madsen and Jay Roberts-Eveland: Founders of Communities for Equity, which leveled the playing field for Michigan girls high school sports teams.

• Norman “Turkey” Stearnes: Negro League star and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.

• Ron Thompson: Legendary Detroit St. Martin de Porres High School football and baseball coach and leader in the desegregation of the Detroit Amateur Baseball Federation.

Kallen said tears of joy flowed when she learned she would be a part of the Walk of Heroes.
“It’s incredible that a Jewish girl from Detroit would be included in this exhibit, especially with Hank Greenberg,” she said. “What a legacy for my two sons and five grandchildren.”
Kallen said being on the Walk of Heroes also is a tribute to her late parents, Phil and Marge Kaplan.

“They encouraged me to be adventurous, to do things that girls didn’t do,” she said.

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