- Rapid Robert
- November 3, 1918
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-19-1936 with CLE
- Allstar Selections:
- 1940 ML, 1940 TC, 1951 TSN
- Hall of Fame:
Feller in action!
A farmboy from Van Meter, Iowa, Bob Feller 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 pro-baseball contract. In his first major league start, against the St. Louis Browns, Feller fanned 15 hitters and never looked back. For twenty years, all with the Indians, the teenage phenomena dominated AL batters with his blazing fastball and bending curve. He hurled three no-hitters, including the only opening day gem, notched 12 one-hitters, served in World War II, and won 19 games for Cleveland's 1948 World Championship team. Feller was the second big league star to enter the service for World War II (following Hank Greenberg). He lost almost four seasons to military duty but was still at the top of his game when he returned. His first year back from the war he set a new record for strikeouts in a season (348 in 1946). While in the U.S. Navy, Feller won eight battle stars.
#9 (1936), #14 (1937-1938), #19 (1939-1941, 1945-1956)
"A professional ball player has just so many years of productivity in his chosen career and should cash in as much as he can, while he can. That's the American way in all other businesses, and that's the way it should be in baseball too."
Herb Score, who for a while looked like he'd be just as good as Feller, until Gil McDougald lined a pitch that struck the lefty in the eye.
In 47-degree weather, Feller opened the season with a no-hitter on April 16 in Comiskey Park. On the final day of the season he lost 2-0 to Detroit, as the Tigers clinched the pennant. In between those two starts he was masterful. He went 27-11 with a 2.61 ERA, with 261 K's in more than 320 innings. He completed 31 of his 37 starts and also had four saves. He surrendered just 13 home runs.
In 1969, Bob Feller was voted the greatest living right-handed pitcher, by fans celebrating baseball's 100th anniversary.
In December of 1956, Feller was elected the first president of the Players Organization, a precursor to the Players' Union.
Like Sandy Koufax, Sam McDowell, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, Bob Feller had problems with his control early in his career. He walked as many as 208 batters in a season, and as late as the age of 29, he walked more than 100. Like those other power pitchers, Feller improved his control enough to be deadly. He threw more one-hitters (12) and two-hitters than any pitcher since Walter Johnson. Ryan would surpass his low-hit game totals.
Led the AL in wins, K's and ERA in 1940, winning the pitching triple crown... On September 13, 1936, in just his 5th major league start, Feller struck out 17 Philadelphia batters, setting an AL record... On October 2, 1938, Feller fanned 18 Tigers, setting a major league record.
Feller was a tall, strong farm boy with a dimple chin, all-american good looks, and a toothy smile.
April 16, 1940: at Comiskey Park on Opening Day, Feller blanked the White Sox, 1-0 in 47-degree weather; April 30, 1946: at Yankee Stadium, Feller defeated the Yankees, 1-0 for his second no-hitter; July 1, 1951: in Cleveland, Feller no-hit the Tigers, 2-1, allowing an unearned run.
Throughout his career, Bob Feller criss-crossed the country playing exhibition games in the off-season, showcasing his legendary fastball for fans in large, medium, and small towns. His barnstorming tours often featured other big leaguers and/or negro league stars, like Satchel Paige. By the late 1940s, Feller was being criticized by a few for his jaunts. "It is the theory of many," wrote the New York Post's Jimmy Cannon, "that Feller has dissipated his greatness on these trips through the villages below the big leagues and they make venomous remarks…" Cannon was (supposedly) referring top a few of Feller's teammates, who resented Bob's pursuit of the dollar. But the sportswriter wondered if jealousy were the real motive. "…their anger is a curious one because most of them would do exactly as [Feller] would if it were possible…" One "old scout" as Cannon called him, said of Feller's exhibition schedule: "He's cutting his life right in half in exhibition games. He'd make more money if he just pitched during the season and picked what he could with odds and ends and let the exhibition games go." In 1947, Feller announced that he would pitch in the Cuban winter league during the off-season. Unfortunately, he made the announcement in August while the Indians were in the midst of a pennant race. Cleveland fans howled. Feller explained that he had to make the announcement earlier than planned because the news was going to leak in Cuba. Regardless, Commissioner Happy Chandler ruled that no major leaguer could play in Cuba during the winter. Feller fired back at Chandler, citing that minor leaguers were not restricted by the ruling. "Why should a major league player be limited to 30 days of barnstorming when a minor leaguer can play ball all winter?," Feller asked. "Chandler's ruling places a penalty on being a major leaguer."
Having established a level of 26 wins over the 1940-1941 seasons, Bob Feller spent all of 1942, 1943 and 1944 in the military, and pitched just nine games in 1945. He won 26 games in 1946. Assuming he would have maintained the level of 26 wins in his lost years, Feller could have won 99 more games. That would have placed him at more than 360 for his Hall of Fame career. A conservative estimate of 260 strikeouts per season would have meant Feller lost about 1,000 K's. Adding those to his total (2,581) would have pushed him past Walter Johnson.
Feller won his 200th career game on July 2, 1950, defeating the Tigers, 5-2 in the second game of a doubleheader.