Baseball lost a great yesterday. Bob Feller sometimes known as “Rapid Robert” died of Leukemia at the age of 92. Feller was born in Van Meter Iowa and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians when he was 16 years old and went directly to the Major Leagues at 17 and won 17 games in his rookie year. He threw the first opening day no-hitter and t
Feller played 18 seasons and missed three and a half seasons after volunteering to serve in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor. He was 23 years old and had already won 107 games and was the highest paid player then in the game when he left baseball in his prime to serve in the war. He did not take an assignment where he was ashore but he served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Alabama BB-60. He said in 1997 “We were losing a war, a big war, we were losing big in the Pacific … any red-blooded American with a gut in his body would have gotten busy.” The former anti-aircraft gunner screamed again: “We took back the Pacific. I can look anyone in the eye and say, ‘I was there.'”
He rose through the ranks and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer while serving as the gun captain of a quad 40mm anti-aircraft mount on that ship. He is the only Chief Petty Officer in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many baseball historians believe that had Feller not missed those seasons he might have won 350 games as he was winning close to 25 games a year at that point. He didn’t have to enlist as he had a deferment to take care of his ailing father. He was sworn in by Heavyweight Boxing Champ Gene Tunney. He never mourned his lost wins or other statistics. He told ESPN Commentator Tim Kurkjian in 1997 “I’ve never once thought about all the prime years that I missed. I did what I had to do for my country. We won that war. I’m as proud of serving as anything I’ve ever done in my life.”
Feller won 266 games while losing 162, with a 3.25 ERA in 484 starts. He pitched 279 complete games struck out 2581 batters and won 20 games in a season 6 times, each time leading the league in wins. He was an 8 time all star, seven-time MVP, led AL in wins 6 times. He helped lead the Indians to their last World Series win in 1948 but did not win a game in the series itself. Feller averaged 247 innings pitched, gave up and average of 211 hits, 89 Earned Runs, 167 Strikeouts and 114 walks a year if his statistics were averaged into a 162 game season. Between seasons he barnstormed often playing against Negro League teams, pitching against his future team mate Satchel Paige several times.
My first encounter with Feller was reading his book as a 10 year old. I believe that he pitched in an Old Timer’s game at Anaheim stadium that I attended. He was a practical joker and had a tremendous sense of humor. He had a “moo-cow” horn on his car, and once made an “ice cream Sandwich” with a bar of soap which Satchel Paige left his false teeth in. Feller also depending on the account was clocked at pitching a baseball 100, 104 or 107 miles an hour. When I heard that Feller had been
Feller played all 18 seasons with the Indians and was very loyal both to the organization and the city. In an era where many ballplayers move from city to city with every better offer it is refreshing to remember a man who valued that relationship. Bob Feller. Baseball Great and Navy Chief dead at 92., may his soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace.
Peace my friends,