“The Heater from Van Meter” missed three full seasons in his prime to serve this country militarily. In the four seasons before leaving for World War II, Bob Feller won 93 games with a 3.15 ERA and struck out 1007 batters. After coming back, he had three more 20-win seasons (including 26 in 1946) and struck out 348 batters in ’46. A no-brainer for the Hall of Fame, Rapid Robert cruised into Cooperstown with 93.8% of the vote in 1962.
Bob Feller arrived in the majors in 1936 at the tender age of 17. In 1938, he made the first of four straight All-Star rosters, and from 1939-1941, the young pitcher finished either second or third in MVP voting. He turned 23 years old in November, 1941; less than a month later he enlisted to serve in the United States Navy after hearing of the attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7.
Stan Musial called him “probably the greatest pitcher of our era,” and Ted Williams said he was “the fastest and best pitcher I ever saw during my career.” High praise from two of the best hitters in history. Despite his baseball prowess, Feller walked away from the diamond temporarily to do his part in protecting this country.
Feller returned to baseball after three years with the military, and continued his Hall of Fame career. In 18 big league seasons, he won 266 games and struck out 2581 batters.
In addition to eight standard baseball cards of Greg Maddux that I had autographed through the mail around 1990 are these two index cards featuring Mad Dog’s stickers from some late 80s sticker sets.
Same goes for Will Clark, though his sticker is bigger since he was a bigger star at the time.
I am pretty sure this is Chipper Jones, but there is no picture to go along with the signature. I Googled his autograph and this looks pretty close. I assume I sent this to the minor league club Jones was with at the time; however, I actually have no recollection of obtaining this autograph.
This one is the biggie, and one that I forgot I had until I was sorting my “too big for a binder” items a few nights ago: Bob Feller autographed index card, with a Fleer (?) sticker of the Indians mascot.
Seeing this card again really makes me want to visit the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa. It’s way out of the way of anything else, but I believe it might be worth the trip anyway.
I’m not sure how to store all of these things. At the moment, they are snug in a 500-count box, and I suppose that is where they will stay until I think of a better solution.
Jim Gilliam, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have retired only one uniform number in honor of a non-Hall of Famer: the very popular Gilliam, who served the team as player and coach during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Gilliam died in 1978 after suffering a brain hemorrhage and slipping into a coma. His uniform number was retired just two days after his death, prior to Game 1 of the 1978 World Series.
Dizzy Dean, St. Louis Cardinals
Mel Harder, Cleveland Indians
Ted Kluszewski, Cincinnati Reds
Billy Pierce, Chicago White Sox
Bob Feller, Cleveland Indians
Robin Yount, Milwaukee Brewers
Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres
This movie just popped up on Netflix’s Instant Watch today. Here’s the description:
William Russ, Jeffrey Tambor and Ernie Banks star in this drama about 41-year-old minor league pitcher Roy Dean (Russ), an athlete at the twilight of his career who decides to mentor a rookie who’s obviously bound for greatness. But time is running out for Roy, and what he has to teach will have to be mastered before it’s too late.
According to the reviews, Banks is only in the movie briefly as a fan in the stands, and a few other baseball greats from the past make cameo appearances: Don Newcombe, Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew, and Bob Feller.
So, is it worth 95 minutes of my life?
Today, Matt of Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius posted photos from his recent visit to the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, IA. This looks like a great place to visit, and if I ever make a trip to Iowa I will definitely stop by. But it got me to thinking, how many great museums are out there? I have started a list with links here; please feel free to add to it.