On March 31, the eve of the Cleveland Indians’ home opener, there was a memorial service held for Hall of Fame pitcher, Bob Feller at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights.
Last year I had the opportunity to meet and photograph Mr. Feller. He was so nice and accommodating. It was such an honor to spend a little time with him.
As a pitcher, he is still a standard-bearer. Year after year he lead the league in wins. Six times! He also lead the league in ERA, and strikeouts seven times! He pitched three no-hitters, including the only one to be pitched on opening day. Bob was routinely clocked at more than 100 mph, and holds the second fastest record of 107.6 mph. He was an eight-time All-Star and inducted into the Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible. The best part is that he was a Cleveland Indian.
But what really made Feller an amazing person wasn’t what he did on the baseball field, but on the battlefield. In 1941, Feller gave up his successful career to volunteer in the Navy. He was the first professional baseball player to do so following the attack on Pearl Harbor. While serving as a gun captain on the USS Alabama, he missed four baseball seasons. It’s hard to imagine what his stats would have looked like if he could have played those four years. The year he returned to baseball, he still won an amazing 26 games.
Bob Feller could have lived anywhere, but he chose to make Cleveland his home. He died on December 15, 2010. He’ll be missed by baseball fans and Clevelanders, but the big bronze statue of him outside Progressive Field will keep his memory alive.