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Bob Feller

Born: November 3, 1918 (1918-11-03) (age 91)
Van Meter, Iowa
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
July 19, 1936 for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 1956 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Win–Loss record     266–162
Earned run average     3.25
Strikeouts     2,581
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1962
Vote     93.8% (first ballot)

Robert William Andrew "Bob" Feller (born November 3, 1918 in Van Meter, Iowa), nicknamed the "Heater from Van Meter", "Bullet Bob" and "Rapid Robert", is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.


Early life

Feller was born and raised in the small town of Van Meter, Iowa, the first child of Bill and Lena Feller. His father was a baseball fan who ran the family farm, and his mother was a registered nurse and teacher.[1] A healthy, active child, Feller developed an early interest in baseball, playing games of catch with his father both outside and inside the house.[1] As an Iowa farm boy in the 1920s, much of Feller's childhood consisted of chores. He has credited milking cows, picking corn, and baling hay with strengthening his arms and giving him the capacity to throw as hard as he did.[2] He refers to his farm days in Iowa very fondly, saying of them, "What kid wouldn't enjoy the life I led in Iowa? Baseball and farming, and I had the best of both worlds."[3] The Robert William Andrew Feller Farmstead is now on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

The Feller family built a baseball diamond on their farm from 1931 to 1932. It was on this "field of dreams" that Bob Feller learned to play baseball.[5] Upon completion of the ballpark, complete with a scoreboard and seats, it was named Oak View Park and became the home field for the Oakviews, the team coached and recruited by Bill Feller.[6]

Feller attended high school at Van Meter High School, where he was one of the starting five pitchers for their baseball team.[7] He also tried to turn his sister Marguerite, ten years his junior, into a baseball player. While she did not catch on, she did play for the girls' high school basketball team, and was the Iowa state ping-pong champion.[7]

Professional career

Feller was signed by scout Cy Slapnicka for $1 and an autographed baseball.[8] Upon being made GM of the Indians, Slapnicka transferred Feller's contract from Fargo-Moorhead to New Orleans to the majors without the pitcher so much as visiting either farm club, in clear violation of baseball rules. After a three-month investigation, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis made it clear that he did not believe what Slapnicka or Cleveland president Alva Bradley said, but awarded Feller to the Indians anyway, partly due to the testimony of Feller and his father, who wanted Bob to play for Cleveland.

Feller joined the Cleveland Indians without having played in the minors. He spent his entire career of 18 years with the Indians, being one of "The Big Four" Indians pitching rotation in the 1950s, along with Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia. He ended his career with 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts, and led the American League in strikeouts seven times and bases on balls eight times. He pitched three no-hit games and shares the major league record with 12 one-hitters. Feller was the first pitcher to win 20 or more games before the age of 21. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. When he was 17 years of age, he struck out 17 batters; he and Kerry Wood are the only two players ever to strike out their age (Wood struck out 20 on May 6, 1998).

On Opening Day in the 1940 season, Feller pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox, with the help of a diving play on the final out by second baseman, Ray Mack. This is the only no-hitter to be thrown on Opening Day in major league history.

Feller when asked if he threw harder than any other pitcher ever, responded that at the end of his career players who had batted against him and also against Nolan Ryan had said Feller threw harder than Ryan. If that was the case, Feller threw over 102 mph. There is footage of Feller being clocked by army ordinance equipment (used to measure artillery shell velocity) and hitting 98.6. However, this took place in the later years of his career, and the machine used, like most of the machines at the time, measured the speed of the ball as it crossed the plate whereas now the speed is measured as it leaves the pitcher's hand. Feller once mentioned that he was clocked at 104 mph at Lincoln Park in Chicago. He also threw the second fastest pitch ever officially recorded, at 107.6 mph, in a game in 1946 at Griffith Stadium.[9]

When Feller retired in 1956, he held the major league record for most walks in a career (1,764), and for most hit batsmen. He still holds the 20th century record for most walks in a season (208 in 1938).

In 1943, Feller married Virginia Winther (1916-1981), daughter of a Wisconsin industrialist. They had three sons, Steve (b. 1945), Martin (b. 1947), and Bruce (b.1950). He lives with his wife, Anne Feller, in Gates Mills, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.

Military service

Robert William Andrew "Bob" Feller
Born November 3, 1918
Bob Feller in Navy.jpg
In the U.S. Navy during WWII
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1941-1945
Rank Chief Petty Officer
Battles/wars World War II
Other work Baseball player

On December 8, 1941 Feller enlisted in the Navy, volunteering immediately for combat service, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to do so following the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7[10] Feller served as Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama,[4] and missed four seasons during his service in World War II, being decorated with five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. His bunk is marked on the Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama.

Subsequent career

One year after his return to Major League action, in 1946, he registered an incredible 348 strikeouts while pitching in 48 games, starting 42 of those games. That year Bob was 26-15 with an ERA of 2.18 while pitching 36 complete games. He led the American League in strikeouts seven times and had 200 or more strikeouts five times. Bob pitched in 570 games during his career, and pitched in 40 or more games six seasons. Bob also threw three no-hit games including the only opening day no-hitter in baseball history in 1940. He had 46 shutouts during his career with 10 of those in 1946. Many baseball historians have speculated that Feller would have won perhaps 350 games with well over 3,000 strikeouts had he not joined the military. He was honored as "The greatest pitcher of his time" by the Sporting News.


Throughout his career, Feller criss-crossed the country playing exhibition games in the off-season, showcasing his legendary fastball for fans in large, medium and small towns. His barnstorming tours often featured other big leaguers and/or negro league stars, like Satchel Paige.

In 1947, Feller announced that he would pitch in the Cuban winter league during the off-season, but major league baseball commissioner Happy Chandler ruled that no major leaguer could play in Cuba during the winter.

Feller's barnstorming business savvy made him one of the wealthiest players of his time. As a result, Feller did not have to take off-season jobs to make ends meet, like many players of his era did, which allowed Feller to become a physical fitness pioneer. While other players waited until spring training to get in shape, Feller had the time to do push-ups, sit-ups, calisthenics and stretching, following a rigorous regimen.

In June 2009, at the age of 90, Feller was one of the starting pitchers at the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic, which replaces the Hall of Fame Game at Cooperstown, New York.[11]


Wall sculpture on the Bob Feller Museum

In 1995, the Bob Feller Museum opened in Van Meter, Iowa. It was designed by Feller's son Stephen, an architect. The land was donated by Brenton Banks.[12] The museum is made up of two rooms which contain both Feller memorabilia and items from his personal collection.[13]


See also


  1. ^ a b Sickels, 6
  2. ^ Kalb, 205
  3. ^ Feller, Now Pitching, Bob Feller, 32
  4. ^ a b Hoffman, Dennis. "Bob Feller Biography". Bob Feller Museum. Retrieved 2009-06-10.  
  5. ^ Feller, Bob Feller's Little Black Book, 5
  6. ^ Sickels, 16
  7. ^ a b Feller, Bob Feller's Little Black Book, 4
  8. ^ a footnote to the source
  9. ^
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Bob Feller still a starter; 90-year-old legend plans to throw hard at Classic." The Associated Press, June 20, 2009
  12. ^ "About the Bob Feller Museum". Retrieved 2009-04-14.  
  13. ^ "Feller Museum, Van Meter, IA". Retrieved 2009-04-14.  


  • Feller, Bob; Bill Gilbert (2002). Now Pitching, Bob Feller. Citadel Press. pp. 232. ISBN 9780806523620.  
  • Feller, Bob; Burton Rocks (2001). Bob Feller's Little Black Book of Baseball Wisdom. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 160. ISBN 9780809298433.  
  • Kalb, Elliott (2005). Who's Better, Who's Best in Baseball?. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 416. ISBN 9780071445382.  
  • Sickels, John (2004). Bob Feller: ace of the greatest generation. Potomac Books, Inc.. pp. 336. ISBN 9781574884418.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Lefty Gomez
Hal Newhouser
American League Strikeout Champion
Succeeded by
Hughson & Newsom
Virgil Trucks
Preceded by
Red Ruffing
Hal Newhouser
Bob Lemon
American League Wins Champion
1946-1947 (1946 with Hal Newhouser)
Succeeded by
Tex Hughson
Hal Newhouser
Bobby Shantz
Preceded by
Lefty Grove
American League Pitching Triple Crown
Succeeded by
Hal Newhouser
Preceded by
Lefty Grove
American League ERA Champion
Succeeded by
Thornton Lee
Preceded by
Monte Pearson
Ed Head
Cliff Chambers
No-hitter pitcher
April 16, 1940
April 30, 1946
July 1, 1951
Succeeded by
Tex Carleton
Ewell Blackwell
Allie Reynolds

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