Scott on the late Bob Feller.
One week ago a report of the death of hall of fame pitcher Bob Feller was released prematurely by a Cleveland newspaper, leading me to do my commentary last Thursday morning on the all time Indian great. On learning of the premature release we removed the commentary from our web page, leading to several requests that it be repeated in the event of his passing, that it be available to those who wanted it in printed form. Last night Bob Feller passed away. This morning, a repeated tribute. “It was a bitter cold January day and a silent snowfall gave a picturesque post card aura to the little town green in Manchester, New Hampshire, lined with it’s crisscrossing sidewalks, it’s park benches guarded by elms and maples that at a warmer time of year sheltered them with cooling shade. It was the perfect background for the ultimate ‘hot stove’ session convened on the other side of the clear glass front of the Center of New Hampshire Holiday Inn, a gathering of baseball legends sharing stories of days gone by and speculation about the summer to come. Among them, the most legendary Cleveland Indian of all, ‘Rapid Robert’ Feller, the hawkish look still fierce in his eyes, the classic nose and the chiseled, dimpled chin making him instantly recognizable to those who saw him as a lad of seventeen, who set a strikeout record in his first major league start then went back home to graduate from high school. As he sat surrounded by a litany of fellow hall of famers that wintry day in 1988, he was a mere child of seventy, already twenty seven years removed from his induction at Cooperstown. Every memory, every detail, prefectly intact, validated by those who sat with him. Somewhere between breakfast and lunch, I excused myself from the classic session long enough to take the short walk to the local sports memorabilia shop to purchase ball holders for my new collection. I returned to the lobby after fetching my coat and saw through the glass wall a lone figure on the snowy green, virtually unnoticed by those in the lobby, neatly packing snowballs and, not throwing them, but, in full, familiar windup, with all the exuberance of a kid who’s just been introduced to the wonder of lazy summer days on dusty makeshift diamonds, pitching them. There, lost in his world of swirling memories of greatness and pure love of the game, was Bob Feller. I stood alone for several minutes, basking in the moment fate had awarded me. There was Bob Feller, a major league pitcher at seventeen, who’d handcuffed the likes of Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Bob Feller, who at age twenty three already had three twenty five win seasons, the only man to pitch an opening day no hitter. Bob Feller, who, while driving from the corn fields of Iowa to sign his contract on December 7th, 1941, heard a radio report of the attack on Pearl Harbor and detoured to Chicago to enlist in the Navy, where, without ever regretting his action, always maintaining his pride in and his devotion to his country, he spent the war as the chief of an anti aircraft crew on the USS Alabama. Bob Feller, who’s presence on the mound alone froze the greatest hitters of all time in the batter’s box. Bob Feller passed away last night at age ninety two, nearly twenty three years removed from that wonderful time in the snow in Manchester, New Hampshire. It’s been said, ‘You have to be a man to play Major League Baseball, but there has to be a lot of little boy in you.’ I’ll never forget the heart of the little boy that never stopped beating in one of the greatest men ever to play the national pastime.” With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.