Results tagged ‘ Bob Feller ’
There is a great void in baseball now that Bob Feller has left us. He was a Hall of Famer more than half of his life, a distinction for which he took great pride. Somehow, Induction Weekend in Cooperstown will never be the same.
Feller, fallen by leukemia at the age of 92, represented the epitome of the American Dream, the Iowa farm boy who made it to the big leagues before he graduated from high school and became one of the icons of an era depicted so memorably in Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation.”
Of all his accomplishments – and there were many – Feller was most proud of the four years he served in the United States Navy as a gunner on the U.S. Alabama during World War II. It cost him four precious seasons at the height of his pitching career, but he never regretted a single day he devoted to his country.
I remember his appearance at the 1986 New York Baseball Writers Dinner when he did me a huge favor. That year, Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly and Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden were co-winners of our Sid Mercer Award for the player of the year. The original plan was to have Stan Musial present the award to Mattingly and Feller to Gooden.
The day of the dinner, Musial’s plane was re-routed to Albany due to fog in New York that forced the three metro airports to close for several hours. I offered Stan a private car to come down to Manhattan, but he declined. “I don’t know how old you are, Jack, but I’m 65, and three hours in a car is not something I’m comfortable with anymore,” The Man said.
I thanked him and told him he should just go back home. Less than an hour later, I found out that Gooden couldn’t come, either. Just a couple of hours before the dinner, I had lost two marquee attractions. Mattingly and Feller had come to New York the night before, so I knew we still had them. The idea now was to ask “Rapid Robert” to present the award to “Donnie Baseball.”
Prompt as usual, Feller was the first to arrive in the dais room an hour before the dinner. I explained my dilemma and asked him if he would give the award to Mattingly.
“I’d be honored to,” he said. “Just do me two favors. One, write down some of Donnie’s statistics; I know he had a helluva year, but I don’t know the exact numbers. Two, make sure in your introduction of me that you mention my four years’ service in the Navy in World War II. Nothing I have done in my life is more important than that.”
My father and uncle were at a table up front with Anne, Feller’s wife, and got pretty friendly during the dinner. The last award presentation was Mattingly’s, and I introduced Bob with emphasis on his war record. At that point, Anne leaned over to my father and uncle and said, “He made that poor boy say that.”
Several years later, I did a piece in the Hartford Courant on Feller in connection with the Hall of Fame honoring World War II veterans. He had just come home from a tour of Okinawa where he had served in the war. I figured he was suffering from jet lag and suggested we do the interview when he was more rested.
“Come on, O’Connell, let’s do it now; I’ll have plenty of time to rest when my eyes close for good,” he said and spent the next 90 minutes detailing every step of his tour of duty in the Pacific.
Feller was proudest of the fact that he was the first major league player to enter the armed services after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese fleet. Another Hall of Famer, Hank Greenberg, also lay claim to being the first, but Feller said, “I checked it out; I beat Hank by about half an hour.”
Here’s the rub. At the time of Bob’s enlistment, his father had terminal cancer. As the sole support of his family, Bob Feller could have been excused from serving in the war, but he felt it was his duty. Think for a minute what his career statistics would have looked like had Feller not joined the Navy and played in those four seasons from 1942 through ’45.
Considering the shape of many of the war-depleted lineups in the early 1940s, Feller might have had seasons of 30-plus victories. Heck, he might have even challenged Jack Chesbro’s 1904 record of 41 victories. Since Feller had pitched in 44 games in 1941, it is conceivable that a 41-win season might not be out of the question. I have a feeling, however, that Feller would have never been able to live with the asterisk that might have been attached to all those victories against hollow lineups.
He had a tremendous career anyway with three no-hitters, including the only Opening Day no-no in 1940, and 12 one-hitters and a ring from the 1948 World Series, still the most recent championship by the Indians. He remains the greatest player in the history of that franchise, which was a charter member of the American League in 1901.
When he and Jackie Robinson were elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, they were the first to do so in their first year on the ballot since the original class of 1936: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
No one wore his Hall of Fame stature more gallantly. Here are some thoughts on Feller from his Hall teammates:
Bobby Doerr: “Bob was just a regular, solid person. He was the same guy, all the time. He gave his opinions and he said what he thought. He didn’t hedge around anything. He was one of the top pitchers I saw in my time. He was timed at 100 miles per hour, and he had a real good curve ball. You had to always be alert with him. He was a real competitor.”
Gaylord Perry: “I really enjoyed Bob’s company, and hearing his stories about history – from baseball to war and everything else, from out of the cornfields to the major leagues. He did so much for baseball and had so many great stories, particularly about barnstorming and his memories of players like Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige. I was very fond of Bob. I traveled to his Museum in Van Meter to support his Museum. I consider Bob a great American.”
Cal Ripken Jr.: “The passing of Bob Feller is a great loss for the game of baseball. Clearly Bob was one of the greatest pitchers in history, and anyone who knew him understood that he was one of the game’s great personalities as well. That said, baseball didn’t define Bob. His service to our country is something that he was very proud of and something we are all grateful for. Bob lived an incredible life, and he will be missed.”
Nolan Ryan: “I am deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Bob Feller. He was baseball’s top power pitcher of the 1940s and 1950s and was a source of inspiration for all Americans for his service during World War II. He was a true Hall of Famer.”
Dennis Eckersley: “Bob was truly a great American and a great ambassador for the game of baseball.”
Hall of Fame board chairman Jane Forbes Clark: “We are all saddened to hear of the passing of Bob Feller. He represented the National Baseball Hall of Fame longer than any individual in history, as 2011 would have been his 50th year as a Hall of Fame member. No one loved coming back to Cooperstown more than Bob, which he and Anne did often. Bob was a wonderful ambassador for the Hall of Fame, always willing to help the Museum. Watching him pitch just shy of his 91st birthday at the Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown will be a memory that we will always treasure. He will always be missed.”
Hall president Jeff Idelson: “The Baseball Hall of Fame has lost an American original – there will never be anyone quite like Bob Feller ever again. He was truly larger than life – baseball’s John Wayne – coming out of the Iowa cornfields to the major leagues at age 17 and then dominating for two decades. Bob loved being a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but he was most proud of his service as a highly decorated soldier in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. He reached the pinnacle of individual achievement in 1962, earning enshrinement in Cooperstown, spending more than half his life as a Hall of Fame member.&nbs
p; He probably flew more miles, signed more autographs, met more people and visited more places than anyone, a testament to his ceaseless zest for life, baseball and country. Cooperstown will never be the same without Rapid Robert.”
That’s for sure.
Trying to figure out baseball will drive you nuts. Or drive you broke if you gamble on games. One night after the Yankees could do next to nothing against a pitcher making his major-league debut, they faced the Indians pitcher who represented the franchise in the All-Star Game two weeks ago and knocked him out of the game in the third inning.
The Yankees made Tribe rookie Josh Tomlin look like Bob Feller Tuesday night by scratching for merely one run and three hits in losing to a pitcher starting his first game in the majors for the sixth time in the past seven such occasions. They turned that around Wednesday night and made Fausto Carmona look like Herm Feller (the late Red Sox public address announcer, the only other person named Feller I know) by unloading on him for seven runs and 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Yankees fans surely remember Carmona. In Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series, the infamous game in which a swarm of midges surrounded the infield at Progressive Field, Carmona held the Yankees to one run and three hits in nine innings. Joba Chamberlain, then a rookie, was attacked by the midges in the eighth and gave up the tying run on a wild pitch, his second of the inning. The Indians won in the 11th and went on to take the series in four games.
Carmona entered play Wednesday night on a three-game winning streak with a 2.41 ERA over 18 2/3 innings that improved his record to 10-7, impressive for a club playing .420 ball for the season. Big deal, the Yankees bats said.
Alex Rodriguez set the tone in the first inning, not with his 600th career home run but with a two-out, RBI single that got the Yankees on the board quickly. They followed that with a small-ball second inning in which four singles and a stolen base added up to three runs. Extra-base power showed up in the third – doubles by Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner and a triple by Curtis Granderson – an inning that Carmona could not survive.
After Cano opened the fourth with a home run (No. 19) off reliever Hector Ambriz, Jorge Posada singled, which left Derek Jeter as the only Yankees regular without a hit. Posada was back in the lineup one night after missing a game due to a sore left knee. It turns out that Jorgie has a cyst behind the knee as the result of years of squatting behind the plate, which may reduce even more his time as a catcher, although Posada says that he has been treating the ailment for the past four years.
Posada has already had health issues this year with foot and shoulder injuries. It’s tough to be a catcher at age 38.
The boos directed at A.J. Burnett as he walked off the mound in the fourth inning came from fans who could taste first place. The Yankees had a chance to stand alone atop the American League East Wednesday night, but Burnett stood in the way.
Tampa Bay was losing in Atlanta, so a Yankees victory would have put them in first place by themselves. The Rays did lost, but so did the Yankees.
Burnett awakened the slumbering Philadelphia bats with an unsightly performance. In 3 1/3 innings, the righthander allowed six earned runs on six hits and four walks. Two of the hits were home runs, back-to-back solos in the third by Ryan Howard and Jason Werth. Burnett also hit a batter, threw a wild pitch, allowed two stolen bases and failed to cover first base on a ground ball that became a single in the fourth for Chase Utley, Burnett’s last batter.
“That sort of topped it off,” Burnett said. “We work on that play day after day in spring training. I just had a lapse. There is no excuse for it.”
“He didn’t have command of his fastball,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Burnett. “If you’re not locating your fastball, it puts you in a box.”
Proving once again that overpowering stuff is not the sole path to successful pitching, Jamie Moyer, 47, stifled the Yankees for eight innings, allowing solo home runs to Robinson Cano in the second and Jorge Posada in the fifth and an infield single to Kevin Russo in the eighth and nothing else to post career victory No. 265, one behind Hall of Famer Bob Feller.
Relievers Boone Logan and Chad Gaudin did their jobs, combining for 5 2/3 hitless innings to keep the Yankees in the game. The pair retired the Phillies’ last 16 batters in order. The Yankees even brought the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth against Brad Lidge, who ended the game with a strikeout of Posada.
It was the third consecutive poor outing for Burnett, a stretch during which he has yielded 16 earned runs and 20 hits, including six home runs, in 16 innings. That’s an ERA of 9.00 as his season ERA has climbed to 4.33.
Base runners have been stealing almost at will against Burnett this year. Two more Wednesday night raised the total to 19 in 14 games. The other Yankees starters have allowed only 13 steals in 50 games. One of the Phillies’ steals was the first of the year for Raul Ibanez, who turned 38 earlier this month. Another was by Utley on a pitchout, but Posada dropped the ball before throwing to second.
Moyer’s recent work aside from a complete-game victory over the Padres had not been much to write home about, either. The ageless lefty was 1-4 with a 5.79 ERA over his previous five starts. Facing the Yankees for the first time in five years back when he was with the Mariners, Moyer did his usual find-the-pea-under-the-shell act and had the majors’ best hitting team (.280) off-balance all night.
“He never throws the ball over the plate, but he hits his spots,” Derek Jeter said. “It shows you don’t have to throw hard. He makes you hit his pitch.”
When the controversy swelled over CC Sabathia’s no-hit bid April 10 at Tampa Bay, I couldn’t help but wonder what Bob Feller would have thought of it. Yankees manager Joe Girardi stirred the issue by stating afterward that he would have removed Sabathia after the eighth inning even if the no-hitter was still in effect.
The issue, of course, was whether to tax a pitcher’s arm so early in the season for the sake of a personal achievement. We’ll never know if Girardi would have backed up his stance because CC lost the no-no with two down in the eighth.
Why Feller? Because he is the only pitcher to have thrown a no-hitter on Opening Day. You can’t get much earlier in a season than that. Feller held the White Sox hitless April 16, 1940 at old Comiskey Park in Chicago. Still fascinatingly irascible at 91, Feller was a 21-year-old wunderkind for the Indians in those days. Can you imagine what he would have done if Ozzie Vitt, his manager, had attempted to take him out of a no-hit bid?
Feller probably couldn’t tell you what his pitch count was that day because nobody paid much attention to that in those days. You just kept pitching if you got people out, which Feller did for 18 seasons until age 37, which is pretty impressive when you consider that in addition to averaging close to 250 innings per season he also annually pitched on barn-storming tours in the off-season.
Attention to pitch count surfaced for Girardi again Wednesday night in Oakland because there was Phil Hughes mowing down the Athletics with high-powered gas and a pinpoint cutter. He had a no-hitter through seven innings with his pitch count at 87. That meant there was still some wiggle room for the righthander, who had thrown 108 pitches in his first outing. And as a fifth starter who was not needed the first time through the rotation, Hughes had hardly been taxed.
The dream ended quickly and painfully. Leading off the eighth, Eric Chavez hit a ball that caromed off Hughes’ left forearm and ended up with a single when Hughes couldn’t find where the ball went, which was midway between the mound and the plate.
This time, Girardi stayed with his pitcher after the no-no was lost, and Hughes came up with a strikeout and a walk before his night finally ended at 101 pitches. After the game, Girardi said that Hughes could have throw 110 to 115 pitches.
It would have been a splendid experience for Hughes, who once lost a no-hit bid to a hamstring injury that forced his removal from a May 2, 2007 game at Texas after 6 1/3 hitless innings. Both of his parents were in the Coliseum crowd Wednesday night watching in equal measure of disappointment and pride.
Hughes went to three balls on only one batter, Daric Barton, who walked on four pitches in the first. Hughes’ 10 strikeouts marked a career high. It was a magnificent performance for any starter let alone the fifth one. He may be moving up.