Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller died on December 15, 2010, after living an amazing life that included inspirational service in the United States Navy in World War II and a storied baseball career. Here are nine things you may not have known about this great American:
1. Feller was signed by legendary scout Cy Slapnicka for $1 and an autographed baseball. On July 22, 1935, when the youngster was just 16 years old, Slapnicka inked Feller to a minor league contract with Fargo-Moorhead of the Northern league. Feller finished his senior year at Van Meter High School and went directly to the Cleveland Indians in 1936. His signing was a point of contention and resulted in Cleveland having to pay a $7,500 fine to the owner of the Des Moines team, who had lost out on signing the young Feller.
2. Feller’s high school graduation ceremony was broadcast live on national radio. Already a famous pitcher at the age of 17, Feller graduated with his classmates in the spring of 1936 and was on the mound for the Indians weeks later. Amazingly, he fanned 15 batters in his first start, against the St. Louis Browns.
3. In the first game that Bob Feller’s mother watched her son pitch in the big leagues, on May 14, 1939, White Sox third baseman Marv Owen lined a pitch into the stands that hit her and knocked her unconscious. She recovered, but had to have stitches.
4. In 1947, Feller announced that he would pitch in the Cuban winter league in 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, MLB 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? Chandler’s ruling places a penalty on being a major leaguer.”
5. Feller frequently pitched exhibition games against famed Negro Leagues hurler Satchel Paige. The two traveled on barnstorming tours during the off-season, entertaining fans all over the country. Feller was one of the first MLB players to include Negro Leagues players in his tours. He championed the election of Paige to the Hall of Fame.
6. In his career Feller started 22 games on just one days rest. His record in those games was 14-5 with a 3.47 ERA and 12 complete games.
7. In his 266 victories, Feller compiled a 1.85 ERA with 223 complete games and 44 shutouts.
8. In December of 1956, Feller was elected the first president of the Players Organization, a precursor to the Players’ Union.
9. Feller was a Hall of Famer longer than any other man. He was elected in his first year of eligibility in 1962, and for the remainder of his life – a span of 48 years – he returned to Cooperstown every year for induction ceremonies .
Dan Holmes is an author and baseball historian. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and Major League Baseball. He once defeated George Brett in Texas Hold Em poker and faced Phil Niekro's knuckleball. He has two daughters and he writes regularly about baseball and many other topics.