“I didn’t know much. I just reared back and let them go. Where the ball went was up to heaven. Sometimes I threw the ball clean up into the stands.”
~Robert William Andrew “Bob” Feller
Anyone who knew Bob Feller was nothing less than amazed! Blessed with a right arm that earned him the nickname “Rapid Robert” and made him one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Bob Feller, who left baseball in the prime of his career to fight for his country, died Wednesday night. He was 92.
Fiercely patriotic and proud of it, his life was much like one of his overpowering fastballs. Whether on the mound or in conversation; he seemed practically unstoppable. Feller, who broke into the majors at the tender age of 17, could always bring the heat.
This farm boy from Van Meter, Iowa was only 17 when he struck out eight members of the St. Louis Cardinals in three innings of an exhibition game. After this awesome display of pitching, Feller was advised to seek voluntary retirement from high school in order to sign a professional baseball contract.
As a rookie, he struckout 15 batters in a single game, which at that time was an American League record. In 1940, Bob became the first American League pitcher to throw a complete game no-hitter on opening day! Here are a few more tidbits and Bob Feller:
- He was secretly signed by Cleveland at the age of 16.
- In his rookie season, he won 17 games and followed that with 24 the next year.
- He had six seasons where he won 20 or more games. Each of those years, he led the American League in wins.
- He threw three career no-hitters and had 12 career one-hitters.
- He was 23 and had 107 wins when he enlisted in the Navy in 1941.
- In his first two full seasons back from armed service, he won 26 and 20 games respectively.
- He was baseball’s biggest drawing card, with an average of an additional 10,000 fans that showed up when he was scheduled to pitch.
- He pitched for Cleveland for 18 years, winning 266 games and losing 162.
- He led the American League in strikeouts seven times. He set a record for his time in 1946, when he struck out 348 batters.
- He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
(*See stats below)
Remarkably fit until late in life, Feller had suffered serious health setbacks in recent months. In August of 2010 he was diagnosed with leukemia, and while undergoing chemotherapy, he fainted and his heart briefly stopped. Eventually, he had a pacemaker implanted.
In November of 2010, he was hospitalized with pneumonia and recently released into hospice care.
Nevertheless, even as his health deteriorated, Bob Feller continued doing what he loved most — attending Indians games deep into last season.
“Nobody lives forever and I’ve had a blessed life,” Feller said in September. “I’d like to stay on this side of the grass for as long as I can, though. I’d really like to see the Indians win a World Series.”
You will truly be missed Bob… Thank you for making your historical contribution to the game of baseball!