A dozen years out of circulation, “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” the Peabody Award-winning sports documentary from D.C.-based director Aviva Kempner, is back for a return engagement in a gloriously enhanced 2 disc set. The affectionate story of one of baseball’s most celebrated Jewish players in the history of the national pastime.
Disk One includes the immaculately transferred feature accompanied by writer/producer/director’s commentary as heard on the original 20th Century-Fox DVD about the making and funding of the film, plus trailers for Kempner’s other fine documentaries: 2009’s “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” and 1986’s “Partisans of Vilna.
Disk Two contains all new “Extra Features,” which includes a ton of material, over two hours in total. 27 Extra Scenes, Bonus Features (a 5-page Greenberg biography, his lifetime stats, Kempner’s 4-page bio, and a handful of reviews and a list of the film’s many awards), and the same trailers found on Disk One.
It’s the extra scenes (each running from 2 to 12 minutes long and grouped around a specific aspect of the player) you’ll want to explore. Interviews galore (some video is scratchy with dust artifacts, but the audio is perfectly clean) with relatives of Greenberg or friends, or with family of associates. These vignettes are lovely, little anecdotes about a great man, his team, and the sport. Stories are told by Shirley Povich, Dick Schaap, Walter Matthau, Bob Feller, Ralph Kiner, and a host of others. There’s a neat but too brief 1996 telephone interview with slugger Ted Williams.
It’s not all sweet. One segment deals with anti-Semitism, but even the comments (from actor Michael Moriarty and fan Max Lapides) offer a bright edge to this bigoted darkness.
Here’s a terrific double-header of nostalgia about a great slugger. This special DVD edition of “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” (available only at www.hankgreenbergfilm.org) is a wonderful father’s day gift.