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Bob Feller

Bob Feller

Personal Info
Birth November 3, 1918
Birthplace Van Meter, Iowa
Professional Career
Debut July 19, 1936, Cleveland Indians vs. Washington Senators, League Park
Team(s) As Player

Cleveland Indians (1936-1956)

Career Highlights
1940 MLB Player of the Year
  • Led the league in wins: 1939 (24), 1940 (27), 1941 (25), 1946 (26), 1947 (20), 1951 (22)
  • Led the league in strikeouts: 1938 (240), 1939 (246), 1940 (261), 1946 (348), 1947 (196), 1948 (164)
  • Led the league in ERA: 1941 (2.61)
  • Career record: 266-162

Robert William Andrew Feller, nicknamed the "Heater from Van Meter" and "Rapid Robert", is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher and Hall of Famer. He was born on November 3, 1918, in Van Meter, Iowa.

Professional career

Baseball Hall of Fame
Bob Feller
is a member of
the Baseball
Hall of Fame

Feller played for the Cleveland Indians, when he was only 17 years of age! His only team, for 18 years, being one of "The Big Four" Indians pitching rotation in the 1950s, along with Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia. He ended his career with 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts, and led the American League in strikeouts seven times. He pitched three no-hit games (1940, 1946, and 1951) and shares the major league record with 12 one-hitters. Feller was the first pitcher to win 20 or more games before the age of 21. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility, along with Jackie Robinson When he was 17 years of age, he struck out 17 batters; he and Kerry Wood are the only two players ever to strike out their age (Wood struck out 20 on May 6, 1998).

Feller was taught to pitch by his father, an Iowa farmer who built a diamond for his son, and installed a generator and electric lights in his barn for night practice. He was signed by scout Cy Slapnicka for $1 and an autographed baseball. Upon being made GM of the Indians, Slapnicka transferred Feller's contract from Fargo-Moorhead to New Orleans to the majors without the pitcher so much as visiting either farm club, in clear violation of baseball rules. After a three-month investigation, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis made it clear that he did not believe what Slapnicka or Cleveland president Alva Bradley said, but awarded Feller to the Indians anyway, partly due to the testimony of Feller and his father, who wanted Bob to play for Cleveland.

On the opening day of the 1940 season he pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox, with the help of a diving play on the final out by second baseman, Ray Mack.

When Feller retired in 1956, he held the dubious major league record for most walks in a career (1,764). He still holds the 20th Century record for most walks in a season (208 in 1938).

In 1943, Feller married Virgina Winther (1916-1981), daughter of a Wisconsin industrialist. They had three sons, Steve (b. 1945), Martin (b. 1947), and Bruce (b.1950). He is still alive lives with his second wife, Anne Feller, in Gates Mills, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.

Early Life

Feller was raised in the small town of Van Meter, Iowa. The son of a farmer, Bob did many arduous chores that made him physically fit. Many attribute his blazing fastball to this. He refers to his time in Iowa very fondly, and currently collects tractors, similar to the ones he used on the farm.

Military service

On December 8, 1941 Feller enlisted in the Navy, volunteering immediately for combat service. He was chief of an anti-aircraft gun crew of the USS Alabama, and missed almost four seasons during his service in World War II (returning in late August 1945), being decorated with five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. Many baseball historians have speculated that Feller would have won perhaps 350 games with well over 3,000 strikeouts had he not joined the military.

Feller's opinions and controversy

In Feller's later years, he has been very vocal about his resentment of the idea of Pete Rose, who was banned in 1989 for betting on baseball games while serving as manager for the Cincinnati Reds, being reinstated into Major League Baseball (and Rose's subsequent induction into the Hall of Fame). Feller went as far as to state that Rose's status as a felon alone should make him unworthy of the Hall of Fame. Feller has also gone on record saying he will never go back to Cooperstown if Pete Rose is ever inducted. Ironically, he and Ted Williams were once part of a movement to elect Shoeless Joe Jackson to the Hall.

We don't want anybody who ever gambled on the game to be in this Hall of Fame. I don't want him and the Hall of Famers don't want him. - Feller on Pete Rose while being interviewed for ESPN in 2004.

During spring training for the 2003 baseball season, Feller called Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Jim Thome, who began his career with the Cleveland Indians, a "journeyman first baseman. He's no gazelle over there."[1]

In 2004, Feller criticized Major League Baseball for inviting boxing legend Muhammad Ali (because Ali protested his being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War) to throw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game in Houston (, 2004).

On August 10, 2005, while on a St. Louis radio station, a rambling Feller claimed that Caribbean players "don't know the rules of the game." When asked by host Mike Claiborne, who ultimately accused Feller of being a racist, to provide an example of this, a flustered Feller tried to change the subject and eventually hung up.

Many baseball pundits and Feller critics (Jim Rome among them, who has frequently referred to Feller as "Bitter, Old Bob Feller") have frequently chastised him for his perceived bitterness, cynicism, and general plain-spoken demeanor in his elderly age. Feller has also been criticized by some (including Feller's frequent target Pete Rose) for supposedly charging a substantial fee for his autograph. While being profiled on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury one of Feller's close friends disclosed Feller's initial cynicism towards hard-throwing pitching phenom Dwight Gooden. Feller also criticized Jim Bouton's controversial book Ball Four despite allegations that Feller had not read it.

Feller's son Stephen designed the Bob Feller Museum, built in 1998 in Van Meter, Iowa. In an interview there in 1998, Feller said he won more games in Chicago than in any other city except Cleveland. But he had one unhappy memory of Chicago. On Mothers Day, 1939, White Sox third baseman Marv Owen lined one of Feller's pitches into the stands near first base, hitting Feller's mother in the face. She spent the next two weeks in a Chicago hospital with cuts and bruises, as well as two black eyes.

Feller also came under fire by many Brooklyn baseball fans for questionable comments made about Jackie Robinson, who entered the Hall of Fame the same year as Feller. Apparently, when Robinson first came up to Brooklyn, Feller said that if he were white he would not have made the Majors.

He's tied up in the shoulders and can't hit an inside pitch to save his neck. If he were a white man, I doubt if they would even consider him big league material.

It should be noted Bob Feller was instrumental in putting together barnstorming games with Satchel Paige's all-stars from 1942 to 1950 during the offseason with black players before the game was integrated. He was a strong believer in integrating the game, contrary to misinformed public beliefs.

In March 2006, Feller said that Barry Bonds should be kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He's not going to get the numbers when it comes to Cooperstown. Those players who have been convicted of using steroids or are caught using them are not going to get the numbers to be elected to the Hall of Fame when they become eligible for that great honor. And I am with them on that.

Feller said cheating was not unique to recent years:

There has always been cheating going on in pitching and hitting. As far as cheating, using a wooden bat and flattening the hitting surface, that has always been going on. ... It is usually discovered in pretty good time.

Also in 2006, when Negro league baseball legend Buck O'Neil failed to get voted into the Hall of Fame, Feller was quoted as saying

What the hell do (these committee members) know about baseball?



  • Winningest pitcher in Cleveland Indians history (266 victories)
  • Led league in wins six times (1939-41, 1946-47, 1951)
  • Led league in ERA (1940)
  • Led league in strikeouts seven times (1938-41, 1946-48)
  • 8-time All-Star (1938-41, 1946-48, 1950)
  • Inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1962
  • In 1999, he ranked Number 36 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

See also

  • Players Never to Play Minor League Baseball
  • List of Players in Baseball Hall of Fame With Over 90% of the Vote

External links