Story of the Week
Bob Feller threw three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters during his major league career, which began when he was 17 years old. In his rookie year, 1936, he struck out 17 Philadelphia Athletics, tying the record of Dizzy Dean at that time, then went back to Van Meter, Iowa-----to finish high school. Think about it; that’s absolutely incredible!
Feller generated statewide publicity at 16, and the Indians signed him to a contract while in high school, a violation of baseball rules. When he attracted attention while pitching in Des Moines, the Detroit Tigers also offered him a bonus, and the truth was revealed. Commissioner Mountain Landis fined the Indians $7,500, and ruled that Feller was free to sign with any team. The bidding might have reached $100,000, an astronomical amount in those days, but Feller respected his contract and re-signed with Cleveland. (It must have been a long time ago; a major league baseball player who actually respected and honored his contract!)
Without any minor league experience, he faced the St. Louis Cardinals in an exhibition game on July 6, 1936, and fanned eight members of the famous Gashouse Gang in three innings. "Rapid Robert" won his first big-league start, 4-1, striking out 15 St. Louis Browns.
On the last day of the 1938 season, the ballpark was filled to capacity to see Hank Greenberg try to break Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season. Instead, they saw Feller strike out 18
Tigers to set the major league record at the time to win the AL strikeout title.
By the time he was 23, Feller had won 107 games. He enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, and was sworn in by former heavyweight champion, Gene Tunney. Instead of pitching baseballs, he pitched anti-aircraft shells from the deck of the battleship Alabama. Feller missed nearly four full baseball seasons, while earning six battle citations as a gun crew chief.
Returning to baseball at the end of 1945, he had his best season ever in 1946, winning 26 games, striking out 346 batters in 371 innings pitched, and recording 10 shutouts with an ERA of 2.18. In 1948, he two-hit the Boston Braves in his only World Series game, but lost. In 1951, he still had enough stuff to toss his third no-hitter, and lead the AL with a 22-8 record.
By the time he retired, Bob Feller had won 20 or more games six times, and had rolled up 2,581 career strikeouts. Satchel Paige, himself an accomplished flame-thrower, once said, "If anyone ever threw the ball any harder than Feller, the human eye couldn’t follow it." He spent his entire baseball career with the Cleveland Indians, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who did Babe Ruth replace in right field for the Yankees after they acquired him from the Red Sox? Ruth began his Yankees career in 1920. Hislegendary right field predecessor in 1919 played all of 12 games, and had a batting average of .091. He then left baseball to try something else, and that something else is what made him a
legend. His name is George Halas. (See my article dated 8-22-02.)
Trivia Question of the Week
What player in major league baseball history received more MVP votes during his career than any other player for never having won that award? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.