Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Heater from Van Meter....

Bob Feller
(November 3, 1918 - December 15, 2010)

In 1985 I went for a job interview for a faculty position at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. I checked in to my room at the College Inn and was scheduled to have dinner with a member of the department faculty that evening. It was a 4 or 5 hour drive from Athens, OH, to Wooster and I laid down to take a nap before dinner. I had the TV tuned to a baseball game, the Cleveland Indians were playing and I watched a bit and dozed off.

When I woke up I had this odd disorientation for a moment when I saw the TV, which was now showing the ballgame in black and white. It was raining in Cleveland, and the game that I'd been watching had been delayed; the TV station was filling the time with some highlights of old Cleveland baseball. But when I woke up I saw that Bob Feller was pitching and, for the briefest moment before my head cleared, I fully believed I had somehow traveled back in time.

In 2008, the New York Mets signed Venezuelan pitcher Johan Santana to a six-year contract worth $137.5 million dollars.

In 1936, baseball scout Cy Slapnicka signed the 17 year old high school pitcher, Bob Feller, to the Cleveland Indians for $1 and an autographed baseball.

Here are some other things about Bob Feller worth repeating:

* He spent his entire career of 18 years with the Indians, ending his career with 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts.

* He was the first pitcher to win 20 or more games before the age of 21.

* On October 2, 1938, Feller set a modern major league record of 18 strikeouts against the Detroit Tigers.

* On Opening Day in the 1940 season, Feller pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. This is the only no-hitter to be thrown on Opening Day in major league history.

* He pitched three no-hit games and shares the major league record with 12 one-hitters.

* He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

* On December 8, 1941, Feller enlisted in the Navy, volunteering immediately for combat service, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to do so following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Feller served as Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama, and missed four seasons during his service in World War II, being decorated with five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

* One year after his return to Major League action, in 1946, he registered an incredible 348 strikeouts while pitching in 48 games, starting 42 of those games. That year Feller was 26-15 with an ERA of 2.18 while pitching 36 complete games.

* In June 2009, at the age of 90, Feller was one of the starting pitchers at the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic at Cooperstown, New York.

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