Baseball Legend: Bob Feller



Baseball legend Bob Feller was one of the first professional athletes to enlist in the military for service during World War II. He would go on to break numerous baseball records both before and after his time in the service.

Bob Feller made his Major League Baseball debut in the summer of 1936, when he was just 17—and still in high school. For the next five seasons, the young hurler would show off the stuff that made him one of the most electric pitchers in the game.

After the 1941 season, Feller drove to Chicago to meet with Cleveland Indians representatives to discuss his contract for 1942. On his way there, he heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Two days later, he enlisted in the Navy.

After graduating basic training in early 1942 at Norfolk Naval Base, Feller began playing for the Training Station’s baseball team, a light duty assignment for athletes. After applying for gunnery school and requesting sea duty, Feller joined the crew of the USS Alabama.

The Alabama served as an escort for aircraft carriers, fended off kamikaze attacks and bombarded beaches. Feller saw combat off Tarawa, in the Marshall Islands, at the Caroline Islands, and in the Philippines. He called the Battle of the Philippines “the most exciting 13 hours of my life. After that,” he said, “the dangers of Yankee Stadium seemed trivial.”

In March 1945, Feller transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center where he managed the baseball team. In late August, just 15 days after the US dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Feller left the Navy and returned to the Cleveland Indians to finish out the 1945 season. For his Navy service, he received six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

Feller would go on to dominate the American League, as he had prior to serving. Though he threw his first no-hitter in 1940, his career was just as spectacular after serving. He threw two more no hitters—in 1946 and 1951—won the 1948 World Series, led the American League in wins six times, in strikeouts seven times, and was an 8-time all-star. He retired in September 1956, having won 266 games with 2,581 strikeouts and a career 3.25 ERA.

Bob Feller was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962—his first year of eligibility. Sporting News ranked him 36th on their 100 Greatest Baseball Players list and he was an MLB All-Century Team finalist in 1999.

In 2013, the US Navy and Major League Baseball teamed up to create the Bob Feller Act of Valor award, which is given to those who honor and support service men and women.

Bob Feller died in December 2010. He was 92.

We honor his service.


Contributors:

Writer: Bryttni Carpenter

Graphic designer: Kimber Garland

Editor: Vincent Tran

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Curtis little    

    Remember him well. I am just a
    nobody but he was my baseball
    idol for such a long time! Early
    Wynn, Bob Lemon and Feller was
    greatest rotation of my lifetime.

  2. Tom connelly    

    Bob feller, hank greenburg , Ted Williams, Frank Baum Holtz, Joe Louis, Armstrong, and many others from many fields served an didn’t come back. Tom Connelly

  3. Steve Gaylo    

    Bob was a cantankerous former player, but without a doubt one of the most self-sacrificing and admirable guys the sport has ever known – not only in his military service, but afterward, as well. The year following a poor season due to an arm injury, the Indians offered Bob a modest salary increase, befitting his reputation and past performance, but he declined the raise and signed on at a reduced contract figure because he wanted to come back to his previous form and prove his worth. How many other star players since then would have done the same?

  4. Gerald nash    

    Great bit of History….thank you things i never knew about mr Fellers service to our country

  5. Bob Ashmore    

    A member of the Greatest Generation as were my Dad, who gave his live and Stepdad who gave his eyesight.

  6. Sandra Lee Smith    

    “Funny” how so many of that generation put aside burgeoning careers in the arts and sports, to defend America, before coming back to make yet another mark in their chosen career fields. Yet today’s members of the arts and sports communities trample all over what those heroes did, and act as if THEY are somehow the better for doing that! Even more sad is that today’s kids actually believe these traitorous haters of America are “championing” the “American way”, when they’re behaving in exactly the antithesis of it!

  7. Rick Glime    

    I was fortunate as a young airman at Davis-Monthan AFB, Az to escort Mr. Feller as a VIP to the Arospace and Arizona days where the Thunderbirds were performing. Back then, the Indians did their spring training in Tucson. I was also permitted to bring my dad, and as cleveland natives, it was double the honor. He truly was a great, and humble man.

  8. STEPHEN    

    THERE WILL BE ANOTHER BOB FELLER AGAIN. I SEEN HIM PITCHING IN CHICAGO AGAINST THE WHITE SOX! HE AND TED WILLIAMS ARE SOME OF MY MEMORIES!

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