I remember being asked a few years ago if I could go back in time and watch one baseball player while he was in the prime of his career, who would it be. I suprised the individual I was chatting with when I named Bob Feller. I choose Feller because from what I had read of and old footage I've seen of him, I knew I would have enjoyed watching him.
Bob "Rapid Robert" Feller passed away this past Wednesday of pneumonia at the age of 92. When the conversation comes up about great pitchers, names such as Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens always seem to be on everyone's list of the greatest pitchers. But to leave Bob Feller off of any list that breaks down the best of the best pitchers in baseball history would be a dissevice.
Feller was a superstar during the period of time he played. He led the league in strikeouts seven times and won 20 plus games 6 times in his 18 seasons. In games that he started, he completed more games (279) than games he won (266). He threw 44 shutouts, three of them were No-Hitters. He pitched atleast 190 innings eleven times, including three seasons in which he threw more then 300 innings. He was truly a pitching machine.
Feller was known for more than just his gaudy statistics. He had an amazing fastball that has been calculated to be around 104 MPH (there were no speed guns to clock pitch speed in the 1930's and 40's). He would tour the country showing off how hard he could throw a baseball, making him one of the most visable and likeable players in baseball.
On top of all of this, Feller missed almost 4 baseball seasons due to him enlisting in the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In addition to his five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars he received for his service in World War II, Feller also has the distinction as the only Chief Petty Officer in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
One can only wonder what career statistics he would have amassed if World War II didnt break out. But what one does not have to wonder about is his place in baseball history. He is arguably one of the top fifteen pitchers of All Time. After he retired, he was a big part of the Cleveland and Baseball communities and did an extensive amount of charity work.
So whether you remember him as a World War II Vet, a Hall of Fame Baseball Pitcher, or a geniune, good hearted man, Bob Feller was truly one of a kind. This legend will truly be missed.