Rapid Robert, the Heater from Van Meter

This is my oldest baseball card, I think. A 1953 Bob Feller, obviously in terrible shape. I’m not sure how I came to have this, but probably my father gave it to me, as he was from Cleveland. I’m also pretty sure he always vetoed any possible trades. (Hence, the Cleveland Indians are over-represented in my baseball card collection.) Anyway, I am happy I still have it, and I like it just the way it is. (Thanks, Dad!)

Bob Feller 1953 smI thought of this yesterday as I was looking at the New York Times online, looking at the obituaries, and noticed a section called “The Last Word” – interviews with well known people, looking back at their lives. And I noticed that Bob Feller was interviewed, and it’s a very nice piece.

I was not a big Bob Feller fan when I was growing up. (Of course, he was a bit before my time. But still…) The main problem was that he was from Cleveland, of course, and my father was always a big Indians fan. But Feller was an amazing pitcher, a fact that I didn’t realize till much later. He entered the majors with the Indians in 1936, directly from High School in Van Meter Iowa, at age 17. In fact, he wasn’t finished with high school, and had to take some time off baseball to finish up. In 1939, ’40, and ’41 he led the league in wins, then volunteered for the Navy after Pearl Harbor and served more than three years. When he came back he again led the league in wins in ’46 and ’47. He threw three no hitters and 12 one hitters and led the league in strikeouts 7 seasons. He had a tremendous fastball; they didn’t have radar back then, to clock pitch speeds, but using other methods it was estimated at 107 mph. He was also the first president of the MLB Players Association.

bob feller perhaps

I found this little animation of Feller online, and I noticed that the player’s number is 14, where Feller was more widely known to wear number 19. Looking into that, I came across a memorabilia auction web site that said that Bob wore number 14 in 1938. I’ve only seen still pictures of Feller throwing, but that looks like his high leg kick, so I think this is Feller in 1938, when he was 19 years old and went 17-11 with the Indians.

Bob died in 2010, on December 15th.

Good game, Bob.

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