Sad news as the former Cleveland Indians great Bob Feller was admitted to hospice care today in a Cleveland-area facility. The 92-year old longest tenured living Hall of Famer was transferred from the Cleveland Clinic after a bout with pneumonia. His health has declined precipitously in recent months after he was diagnosed with Leukemia during the summer and was fitted with a pacemaker soon after.
The hard-throwing Feller had an extraordinary 18-season career with the Indians that started when he signed for the cost of $1 and an autographed baseball. After spending 0 days in the minors, his major league career began at the ripe old age of seventeen, when he posted a 3.34 ERA in fourteen games! Feller also threw three no-hitters (including the only one on Opening Day), twelve one-hitters, and set the then modern record for strikeouts in a game with 18 (he also K'd 17 as a 17-year old). He also reportedly threw the second-fastest pitch ever recorded in a game, clocked at 107.6mph. Feller's top season was in 1946 when he posted a 26-15 mark with a 2.18 ERA, 348 strikeouts, 10 shutouts and 36 complete games. Feller notched a career line of 266-162, was an eight-time All-Star and was admitted into the Hall of Fame (first ballot) in that magical year of 1962. Feller was also the first active Major League player to voluntarily enlist in the Navy after the Pearl Harbor Bombings and subsequently missed four seasons during his service as a Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama in WW2.
Now I know he wasn't a Met but Feller was probably one of the 25 greatest pitchers who ever lived and more importantly he's a genuinely good guy. I had the pleasure of meeting him once during a Mets-Indians ST game at the Indians (former) Winter Haven complex in '07 and he couldn't have been any nicer. Instead of the typical "Hi, thanks for coming. [sign autograph] Well, see ya later!" that you usually get from big leaguers, Feller sat and spoke intimately with each fan, some for up to 25-30 minutes apiece! It certainly didn't make the line move any longer but it showed the kind of incredibly genuine and all-around nice guy Feller is.
Fellow SB Nation author John Sickels (MinorLeagueBall.com) and author of Feller biography 'Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation' said about Feller:
"At his peak, there were certainly few pitchers who could match his ability to dominate a game. When young, he was one of the hardest-throwing pitchers of all time...[Off the field] He was a very complex person...He could be very pleasant, gracious, and quite kind...His personality dominated a room, and he was usually brutally honest about what he thought and felt."
My thoughts go out to Bob, his family and all Indians fans.