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July 13, 1990 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-07-13

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The Purple Gang
(below), arrested out-
side the Collingwood
Manor in 1931. The
site where the Coll-
ingwood massacre oc-
curred (far left), and
the grounds of the first
Purple Gang shoot-out
as they appear today.

Jewish immigrants. He got
his start in baseball when
New York Yankee scout
Paul Krichell saw him hit
three home runs at a high
school game. Krichell im-
mediately offered him a job
with the Yankees.
While contemplating the
proposal, Greenberg was
contacted by the Washing-
ton Senators, who also
wanted him to sign.
Then Greenberg received
an offer he couldn't refuse:
an enormous salary for the
day — $9,000 — from the
Detroit Tigers. He was 19
years old.
Greenberg, 6 feet 4 inches
and 215 pounds, batted .301,
hit 12 home runs and
brought in 87 runs in 1933,
his first season with the
By 1935, Greenberg was
batting .328 and was named
the American League's most
valuable player. With 36
home runs and 170 RBI, he
lead the league. In 1936, he
drove in 183 runs and hit
.337 at Briggs Stadium (now
Tiger Stadium). By 1939, his
salary was $35,000 — re-
portedly making him the
highest paid player in the
When not hitting homers,
Greenberg could often be
seen making eyes at women
at the Grosse Pointe Yacht
Club, where he liked to
dance on Saturday nights.
Greenberg stayed at the
Seward Hotel, 59 Seward
Ave., in Detroit's New
Center while playing for the
Tigers in 1937.
The Seward Hotel still

stands today, though it has
been converted to apart-
ments and renamed Well-
ington Place. The U-shaped
building sits near a similar
collection of elegant apart-
ments with names like
Bonita and Midtown.
Drafted in 1941, Green-
berg returned to baseball in
1945 after serving in the
U.S. Army Air Corps. He
was 34, but still hitting one
home run after another. But
in 1947 Tigers General
Manager Billy Evans traded
Greenberg to the Pittsburgh
Greenberg was deeply dis-
appointed when he heard the
"My whole major league
career has been spent in a
Detroit uniform," he said. "I
have always given the
Detroit club and the fans my
best effort and my record
speaks for itself. I am deeply
grateful to the Detroit fans
—the finest in the world —
for their loyalty and en-
In 1947, Greenberg retired
as a player, though he
stayed with baseball, work-
ing until 1961 with the
Cleveland Indians and
Chicago White Sox. In 1956,
he became the first Jew
elected to the Baseball Hall
of Fame.



They were big, bad and
"They blazed their way
through life with their guns
and they died by the guns of
others," The Detroit News
said of The Purple Gang, a
group of Jewish gangsters
who terrorized Detroit
streets in the days of Pro-
The head of the gang was
Ray Bernstein. He and most
of his fellow mobsters were
in their 20s, and they liked
expensive gray suits. The
heart of their territory was
from Pingree to Clairmont,
Woodward to Grand River.
Organized in 1918, the
group began attracting the
attention of Detroit police
and press corps in the 1920s,
when 13 members of the
Purple Gang were charged
with trying to extort money
from local cleaners.
The Gang spent much of
its time selling morphine
and bootleg liquor. Some
Purples were said to be in-
volved in Chicago's Saint
Valentine's Day Massacre.
Two Purple Gang members,
Abe Axler and Eddie Flet-
cher, "were more feared
than any other Detroit
hoodlums," according to The
Detroit News.
The Purple Gang was
fingered in two major shoot-
outs in Detroit. The first, the
Milaflores Massacre, oc-
curred in March 1927 at 106
E. Alexandrine. Leased to
four Purple Gang members,
the apartment was found

Hank Greenberg,
Tigers star, in the
1930s and the building,
formerly the Seward
• Hotel, where he stayed
in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press

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