Bob Feller died of leukemia last night at the age of 92. He was the greatest player ever to play for the Cleveland Indians, one of the greatest right-handed pitchers in baseball history, and a true Cleveland icon.
Feller won 266 games, struck out countless batters, and threw the only complete game Opening Day no-hitter in baseball history. He began pitching in the majors as a teenager and had an extraordinary, knee-buckling fastball that just overmatched most hitters. He also was a patriot. The day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Feller enlisted in the Navy. At that time, he was only 23 years old, but had already won 107 games in the major leagues. He served four years in the Navy as an anti-aircraft gunner — a period that cut the heart out of some his most productive pitching years — and did so with pride and without regret. When World War II ended, Feller returned to the Tribe and professional baseball and continued to pitch for years. He was an integral part of the 1948 team that was the last Tribe team to win the World Series.
Bob Feller was Grampa Neal’s favorite player. I think Grampa felt that way not only because Feller was a great baseball player — as he unquestionably was — but also because Feller served his country without complaint, never acted as if he should receive special treatment, and remained intensely loyal to the Cleveland franchise and its fans. Feller not only possessed an awesome fastball and pitching abilities, he also possessed some of the intangible qualities that distinguish great people from everyone else. His contributions to the Indians and Cleveland generally are immeasurable and irreplaceable.