Short-snorter and Hank Greenberg

Gates_90.jpgBy Jim Gates

Have you ever heard the term “short-snorter?”

4-16-09-Gates_SnorterBack.jpgWell, up until several months ago, neither had I. Apparently, there is a tradition that dates back to the original Army Air Corps wherein it is important for an officer to carry around a piece of currency which has been signed by one’s colleagues. If you are caught without one at the officer’s club, you have to buy everyone a round of drinks. If you have yours when challenged, the challenger must pay for your next drink.

With this cultural-background note in hand, I can report that the Hall of Fame recently acquired its first short-snorter, and one signed by a Hall of Famer at that. This artifact is a 10-shilling note from British West Africa and is signed on the back by Capt. Hank Greenberg. It was donated to the Hall by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Smith, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a B-24 bomber with Greenberg during World War II and asked him to sign the note during a stopover in West Africa. Smith reports that this flight occurred in February of 1944, and he kept the bank note all these years before donating it to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Although it is always fun to handle the well-known artifacts from baseball history, I think many of us take just as much pleasure in handling the lesser-known items, ones that show the game and its relationship to our culture from a previously unknown angle. Knowing about Greenberg was the easiest part of the research on this donation, but I had the opportunity to learn about British West Africa (now Nigeria), colonial bank notes, U.S. military air routes and, most importantly, the all-important definition of a short-snorter! Who says research is boring?

Jim Gates is librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.


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