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Bob Feller

Posted by Andy on December 16, 2010

Bob Feller has passed away at age 92.

He was pretty well before my time and I don't know too much about him or his career.

He missed 3 years for World War II--those were his Age 23, 24, and 25 seasons, as well as most of his Age 26 season. In his 5 full seasons surrounding this gap, he won at least 20 games every time. If you give him 75 extra wins for that missed time, his career win total would have been 341 (11th all-time.) If you give him 91 extra wins (accounting for the fact that he averaged 24+ wins over those 5 surrounding seasons) that would have given him 357 for his career (8th all-time.)

Another way to look at it:

Most wins up to Age 22 season:

Rk Player W From To Age G GS CG SHO L W-L% IP
1 Bob Feller 107 1936 1941 17-22 205 175 117 16 54 .665 1448.1
2 Smoky Joe Wood 81 1908 1912 18-22 152 109 88 23 43 .653 999.2
3 Dwight Gooden 73 1984 1987 19-22 124 124 42 16 26 .737 924.1
4 Babe Ruth 67 1914 1917 19-22 121 110 75 16 34 .663 890.2
5 Christy Mathewson 64 1901 1903 20-22 120 113 103 16 47 .577 987.0
6 Bert Blyleven 63 1970 1973 19-22 144 141 58 18 58 .521 1054.2
7 Chief Bender 60 1903 1906 19-22 136 103 89 10 46 .566 941.0
8 Pete Schneider 59 1914 1918 18-22 200 153 84 10 85 .410 1245.0
9 Walter Johnson 57 1907 1910 19-22 135 120 99 20 65 .467 1033.0
10 Larry Dierker 55 1964 1969 17-22 144 132 43 7 50 .524 980.2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/16/2010.

Feller is way out in the lead for 2 reasons: 1) an early start and 2) being a great pitcher.

He's also tied for the 87th most wins (post-1901) from Age 27 on.

That means if he had been able to pitch those 3+ years, he probably would have amassed some of the greatest counting stats ever for a starting pitcher.

Please share your thoughts and memories of Rapid Robert below.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 9:22 am and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

106 Responses to “Bob Feller”

  1. Did you know that when he was 17 years old, in his first ML start, he fanned 15 batters? How about that he was 14-5 in starts when he had ONE DAYS rest?
    He was an amazing pitcher and wonderful man. Had the chance to meet him several times when I worked at the Baseball Hall of Fame. They don't make them like him anymore.

    Nine Things You May Not Know About Bob Feller: http://bit.ly/ihyVQS

  2. Whenever I think of Feller, I think of John Morris' Bullet Bob Comes to Louisville. It's a fun book.

  3. He might have won another 100 games if not for world War 2, but it's also possible his arm might have fallen off after throwing 960 (!) innings in 1939-41.

    Regardless, one of the greats. RIP.

  4. A good point, Tracy--certainly it's reasonable to think that he got more mileage out of his arm later in his career thanks to lack of significant wear and tear for a few years.

  5. Rapid Robert will be missed. I love how he was able to stay active and involved for almost his entire life.

    On another note, looking at the list above, its hard not to think, "What could have been" for Dwight Gooden.

  6. Poz has a great post about him right now. Enjoy:
    http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/12/rip-bob-feller
    Enjoy.

  7. He was great in every way. Like a combination of Satchel Paige's flair for the dramatic, Nolan Ryan's heat, Ted Williams' patriotism, Dwight Gooden's spectacular youth and Stan Musial's standing as a city patriarch. Oh, and the raw stats alone, taking none of that into account, are just sickeningly great.

    RIP, Rapid Robert.

    (Side note, there's that man again on that list. Was there ANYTHING Babe Ruth couldn't do? Fewest innings there, too.)

  8. Dr. Doom,

    Are you sure about that link? I just clicked on it and got a post doesn't exist page.

  9. Just to reiterate the "since 1901" caveat on that top ten list to appease fans of the 19th century (which includes myself). Still, even without that restriction on the search, Feller ranks 5th all time. The rest of the list is from pre-1893 which means they pitched in 3 or 2 man rotations (or in Tommy Bond's case, just one) and they pitched from a shorter distance. To pitch in the 1930s and 1940s and rank high compared to those guys is impressive.

  10. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I pray, thanking G-d for the privilege to have witnessed the career of a man who was an All-Star, both as a pitcher and {more importantly} as a human being. Just one suggestion;

    When you start the heavenly All-Star game on Mothers Day, make sure your mom is safely nestled behind the screens this time.

  11. Dr. Doom, Never mind, I found it. Great article.

  12. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    Feller ranks 31st in career WAR and 24th in career Adjusted Pitching Wins; 26th and 21st respectively if you eliminate primarily 19th century pitchers. Does that sound like a fair assessment?

  13. Feller was mentioned on Abbott & Costello's radio show when they did the Who's on First? routine. According to the plot, Costello was going to play right field for the Yankees while Joe DiMaggio was hurt, and the Yankees were going to play Cleveland. Abbott starts:

    --Feller pitching?
    --Of course they've got a feller pitching, do you think they'd use a girl?
    --No, no, when I say Feller, there's only one Feller who pitches for Cleveland.
    --So nine Yankees are going to go up against one feller?

    or something like that.

  14. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'll agree with Tracy. We can never know for sure, but I don't think WWII cost him anything like 91 wins, and it may not have cost him at all. Even while missing nearly four full seasons, he still has the 6th most IP of any liveball pitcher prior to age 30. If you give him another few seasons of 300+ IP, he would have far and away the most. Almost all of the leaders on that list, save Bert Blyleven, did very little after age 30. Even with all that time off, Feller's last big season was at age 32. Also, look at Feller's strikeout rates. In both halves of his career, it started high and then steadily descended. Without the time off, I doubt his K-rate would have rejuvenated to where it was in '46.

  15. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Regardless, he was still one of the best. He doesn't need to be given phantom wins to make that case.

  16. An amazing career. Debuted while still in high school. Won 5 games
    and struck out 76 in 62 innings. Then returned home and graduated from high school. Led the AL in strikeouts during each of his first 7 full seasons.
    Pitched 3 no-hitters and 12 one-hitters.

    Enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor. Missed nearly 4 full seasons due to service.

  17. So who is the oldest HOFer now?

  18. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #17/ Dan Says: "So who is the oldest HOFer now?"
    Non-Player: Lee McPhail
    Player: Bobby Doerr

    Stan Musial is close.

  19. Rk
    Player
    Born
    Died
    From
    To

    1
    Bob Feller
    1918

    1936
    1956

    2
    Bobby Doerr
    1918

    1937
    1951

    3
    Monte Irvin
    1919

    1949
    1956

    4
    Stan Musial
    1920

    1941
    1963

    5
    Ralph Kiner
    1922

    1946
    1955

    6
    Red Schoendienst
    1923

    1945
    1963

    7
    Yogi Berra
    1925

    1946
    1965

    8
    Duke Snider
    1926

    1947
    1964

    9
    Tom Lasorda
    1927

    1954
    1956

    10
    Whitey Ford
    1928

    1950
    1967

    11
    Dick Williams
    1929

    1951
    1964

    12
    Willie Mays
    1931

    1951
    1973

    13
    Ernie Banks
    1931

    1953
    1971

    14
    Jim Bunning
    1931

    1955
    1971

    15
    Whitey Herzog
    1931

    1956
    1963

    16
    Hank Aaron
    1934

    1954
    1976

    17
    Al Kaline
    1934

    1953
    1974

    18
    Luis Aparicio
    1934

    1956
    1973

    19
    Sparky Anderson
    1934

    1959
    1959

    20
    Frank Robinson
    1935

    1956
    1976

    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool UsedGenerated 12/16/2010.

    Not updated for Feller or Anderson.

  20. Rk Player Born Died From To
    1 Bob Feller 1918 1936 1956
    2 Bobby Doerr 1918 1937 1951
    3 Monte Irvin 1919 1949 1956
    4 Stan Musial 1920 1941 1963
    5 Ralph Kiner 1922 1946 1955
    6 Red Schoendienst 1923 1945 1963
    7 Yogi Berra 1925 1946 1965
    8 Duke Snider 1926 1947 1964
    9 Tom Lasorda 1927 1954 1956
    10 Whitey Ford 1928 1950 1967
    11 Dick Williams 1929 1951 1964
    12 Willie Mays 1931 1951 1973
    13 Ernie Banks 1931 1953 1971
    14 Jim Bunning 1931 1955 1971
    15 Whitey Herzog 1931 1956 1963
    16 Hank Aaron 1934 1954 1976
    17 Al Kaline 1934 1953 1974
    18 Luis Aparicio 1934 1956 1973
    19 Sparky Anderson 1934 1959 1959
    20 Frank Robinson 1935 1956 1976
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 12/16/2010.

    Not updated for recently deceased people.

  21. For baseball fans, Feller has always been one of the great "what-ifs." What if he never lost more than 3 1/2 years to the war, how many more games we he have won. As Andy noted, it certainly could have been as high as another 90 games based on his surrounding seasons and the rate he was winning, the volume of starts and innings he pitched.

    I always assumed that the reason Feller lost his overpowering fastball by the time he was 28 related to the excessive innings he pitched at such a young age, and especially the 371 innings and 36 complete games he tossed in 1946, after missing all those years to the war. Yet I read in one of Rob Neyer's columns that Feller injured his knee early in the 1947 season, and he was never quite the same after that, although he remained effective with his reduced velocity. Whether it was the arm abuse or the knee, I think Rob summed the "what-if" scenario best: "People wonder how Bob Feller would have done if the war hadn't come along. I wonder how Bob Feller would have done if he hadn't lost his All-World fastball before he turned 29."

  22. Becky Secrest Says:

    Bob Feller came to Pampa Texas at my father's request to be the guest speaker/pitcher at our baseball opening day at the Optimist Club ball park. (late 50's early 60s?) My Dad caught for him on that opening day and we all knew we were in the midst of greatness. He came to dinner at our house that night as well. He left us a signed copy of his book, "How to Pitch" which I still have.
    RIP

  23. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Good point, MikeD, I knew there was a post-war injury in there somewhere, which just complicates the effort to project what he might have done without the war (as if it weren't complicated enough already).

  24. Doerr actually was born before Feller. Doerr became the oldest when Rizzuto died. Feller wasn't the oldest HOF when he died. Doerr was. Feller was put in in 1962 by the writers, but Doerr not until a 1986 by the Vets.

  25. To add, that table above lists Feller 1 and Doerr 2? Doerr born April 1918, but Feller was born November 1918.

  26. @ Frank Clingenpeel-

    I was going to make a joke about how we should all be asking you what it was like to see Feller pitch, and then there you were, talking about it before I thought of it. Dern.

    If you ever saw him in person (and I don't know that you did), was he as fast as he says? Have you seen any pitchers since that compare in terms of velocity? Just curious.

    And everyone, sorry about the Poz link before. I forgot the .html at the end. Here's the link for real this time:

    http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/12/rip-bob-feller.html

    I just tried it, and it worked. So enjoy - it's a really good piece. Not that you'd expect anything less from Poz.

  27. @3, 14 -

    My grandfather served on the USS Alabama. I take issue with your reference to Chief Feller's 4 years in the Pacific theater as "time off".

  28. The table ranks only by Year of Birth, not by actual birthdate.

    Interestingly, I saw several reports today that identified Feller as the previously oldest living HOFer, even though Mike S @23 is correct that Doerr is older than Feller.

  29. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Feller and be around him a few times during MLB Alumni events in Phoenix.

    The one thing that always amazed me was he always had time for people and took time to talk.

    Being that he was the so-called good will ambassador of the HOF and had been for over half his life it would be understandable that at times he would tire of the attention.

    It's easy to see what someone means to a demographic by how they are treated by their peers.

    I've seen current and former major league players act like drooling idiots when Feller walked onto a field or into a room.

    The last time I saw him was at the grand opening of the Indian's new ST facility in Arizona. As usual, Feller was in full Indians uniform, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

  30. I just started reading a book titled "Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson," by Timothy Gay. I believe his premise is that the barnstorming tours featuring Paige and his mates on one side, and Dean or Feller and their crews on the other, did much to set the stage for the eventual integration of the game. And remember Feller was basically the team leader of the first AL team to integrate.

  31. Abbott: This is the kind of uniform Feller wears
    Costello: What Feller?
    Abbott: Feller with the Cleveland Indians
    Costello: There's 9 player with the Indians which feller are you talking about?
    Abbott: Feller that pitches. There's only one Feller with Cleveland.
    Costello: You mean 9 Yankees are going against 1 feller?
    Abbott: That's right.
    Costello: Well this feller must be pretty good if he don't need other players helping him
    Abbott: Look, all the other players will be helping him
    Costello: When the manager of the team wants this guy, what does he call him?
    Abbott: Feller
    Costello: You mean he just hollers "Hey feller" and this guy knows it's him?
    Abbott: That's right
    Costello: Whoohooo...

  32. Actually, the war years might have saved Feller's career. If you look at the careers of pitchers who logged a significant amount of innings prior to age 20, you'll see they were burned out by age 30.

    Doc Good and Kerry Wood are the two who come to the top of mind.

  33. A personal memory about Bob Feller. I once got a base hit off of him. No, I'm not really Bobby Doerr. No, I'm not really 100 years old. No, I'm not a former MLB player. And, no, I didn't really get a base hit off of him, but I did get to swing a bat against him.

    About 25 ago, I participated in a media exhibition that Feller attended. He basically threw batting practice to anyone who was part of the event. Most didn't take the opportunity, but I wasn't going to let it pass. Feller had this down to an art, no doubt because he did he it regularly as he traveled the country. As far as I could tell, he could throw a belt-high strike 100 out of 100 times, lobbing the ball in to anyone who would pick up a bat.

    As I stepped up, it was surreal feeling, being as I was in my early 20s, and here I was looking out to the mound seeing a Bob Feller in his late 60s staring back, getting ready to pitch to me. I was fully aware the man who was about to throw the ball once threw fastballs with mean intention to Lou Gehrig. I took a couple pitches to have the experience last longer than a single pitch. Not trying to do too much, I just wanted to meet the ball and take it up the middle (hopefully without injuring a legend). On the third pitch, I hit a soft liner toward second, which scooted off the dirt into short right center. Mission accomplished. Of course, if there had actually been a second baseman, and there was a man on first, I think I might have hit into a double play!

    My friends, of course, needled me no end, pointing out that I couldn't even pull the ball (I'm right-handed) off a 67-year-old man who was soft tossing me belt-high pitches! It was all great fun.

    I retrieved the ball, happy to see a smudge of dirt from where it hit the infield. Bob Feller signed it, and the ball, with smudge of dirt and Bob Feller's signature sits on my book shelf to this day, where I can point to it, telling anyone who will listen to my story about my "base hit" off of Bob Feller.

    RIP, Bob.

  34. Even within the last few years, Bob Feller had the reputation of loving to talk baseball and having an amazing memory. This is a true loss of a lot of first hand baseball stories. RIP.

  35. jeff schwitzer Says:

    Just love that old video of Feller pitching against the motorcycle.

  36. When I was fifteen, Bob Feller came down to the small town I lived in to sign autographs at a little card shop there. I remember that most of the questions he was asked by those getting his signature were about the war, and not about baseball. It was great getting to meet him, and how he took the time to chat with everyone that showed up. I have the ball and 8x10 he signed in a prominent location on one of my shelves that I have for my autographed memorabilia. He was a real class act, and will be missed.

  37. Dark Leviathan Says:

    My favorite Feller stat is that he was the first person to strike out his age (before Kerry Wood). He struck out 17 batters at age 17, in his first season I believe. Truly remarkable. RIP Bob.

  38. Feller was the longest tenured Hall of Famer, not the oldest living Hall of Famer. I would like to know who is now the longest tenured HOF'amer?

    I think it is now Stan Musial, who was elected in 1969.

  39. Johnny T @14, good points, as usual.

    Following your lead, I was looking at Feller's K rate from year to year, and one thing jumped out at me:
    -- 1946, 8.4 K/9 ... did not lead the league.
    -- 1947, 5.9 K/9 ... did lead the league.

    How'd that happen? Basically, in '46, Feller and Hal Newhouser were in their own orbit near 8.5 K/9 (Newhouser led by the 2nd decimal point), while the rest of the AL pitchers (and the NLers) were at 6.1 and under. In '47, both Feller and Newhouser fell back with the mortals, but Newhouser fell just a little further, giving Feller the K/9 title.

    (P.S. There were 595 fewer strikeouts in the AL in 1947 than the year before, dropping the K/9 rate from 4.3 to 3.8 -- and 42% of that decline came just from Feller and Newhouser.)

  40. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    Dr. Doom {#25}

    I saw him pitch a couple of times at Comiskey -- always against a top pitcher like Thornton Lee or Ted Lyons -- and no, I never thought he was as fast as they say he was; I thought he was faster.

    And Tony {#26}: Thank you. I had a cousin on the Alabama, and two of my brothers served in the Marines in the Pacific during the war. Calling that "time off" is akin to referring to a heart transplant as a "vacation".

    I also remember hearing on the radio the day after Feller pitched the infamous {?} "Mother's Day" game. Of course, nobody knew it was Feller's mother who got hit by the foul ball until it came out in the papers the next day.

  41. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I remember one other thing about Feller.

    When he started, I remember my dad arguing with my uncle about whether he or Walter Johnson was faster -- a memory that rejuvenated itself thirty years later, when my cousin and I had the same type of disagreement when I said that Ryan was even faster than Feller had been. And while we finally agreed that Ryan might have been faster, there was no denying that Feller's killer curveball made him a far superior pitcher.

  42. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I noticed that too, John A., very weird. Newhouser was another one of those guys who came up young and did very little after 30. He was about 2.5 years younger than Feller but pitched through the war, so had nearly as many IP as Feller through '46. He was still a good pitcher for a few more years but his last season as a top SP was age 28.

    Interesting find about how much of the league K-rate drop was due just to Feller and Newhouser. How much stronger was the AL/MLB in '47 than '46? Newhouser is well known for winning the MVP against the weakened AL in both '44 and '45, but his HOF induction is seen as legit because he was still excellent in '46 when the war was over. But perhaps a lot of players were not back in top form? I know Phil Rizzuto was suffering from malaria, and Cecil Travis had frostbite and never bounced back. But Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio bounced back as good as they had ever been. Overall, I wonder if most players who had been at war had trouble adjusting in their first season back, enabling Feller (who returned late in '45) and Newhouser (who never left), among others, to dominate.

  43. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Ryan had a pretty killer curveball too. (I can't compare it to Feller's however.)

  44. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    Johnny Twisto {#45}:

    In reference to post-war comebacks, we should also remember Hank Greenberg as well

  45. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    Sorry -- I meant "41", not 45. Lord, I miss my mind!

  46. Johnny Twisto Says:

    This is kind of fun. I graphed Feller's "K+" over his career. This is simply his K/9 divided by the league K/9, times 100. So 100 is league average, higher is higher. (Looking at K's as a percentage of batters faced rather than per IP would probably be better, but whatever.) Anyway, you can easily see how his K-rate steadily declined over his career, and if you remove the gap when he was at war, the two sections of the graph match up quite nicely.

    https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0Au44MM5dYSMhdHY2SjdjSkR1ZjZOUE5fOTBVU3lkNkE&hl=en&single=true&gid=1&output=html

    (I'm an idiot and can't figure out how to make the years show up on the bottom of the graph, but it shouldn't make any difference in reading it.)

  47. @32 MikeD - that is a nice story :)

  48. SocraticGadfly Says:

    Two caveats.

    1. His 1954 comment that "we all knew Willie was going to make that catch."
    2. His comment that Jackie Robinson was too musclebound to hit.

    I don't know if he had a particular reason for saying both of those.... but ....

  49. SocraticGadfly Says:

    Per my previous post, Posnanski quotes Feller:

    "And yet Feller said that Jackie Robinson would not make it as a big league player, and said that there wasn't a Negro Leagues player who was good enough to play in the big leagues. (His famous and straightforward quote on the subject comes from 1969: "I don't think baseball owes colored people anything. I don't think colored people owe baseball anything either"). "

    It does make me think ... pictures of him next to black HOFfers aside ...

  50. And he also made public pitches for Satchel Paige to be elected to the Hall of Fame, several years before he was elected. In one of his books, he called Satchel one of the best pitchers in baseball history. And of course there are his barnstorming games against Satchel and other black players. In the book "Satchel", it is said that Satchel and Feller "did as much to advance the racial cause as anyone in baseball".

    I don't know if you have a particular reason for saying what you said...but it does me think...you don't know your history as well as you think...

  51. As a baseball history buff and baseball hobbyist, I have been a fan of Bob Feller for more years than I care to recount.

    One of my favorite memories of Mr. Feller was the 1981 or '82 sports collectors show at a Holiday Inn motel on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Feller had a table a couple of spots away from ours and I got to observe and listen to Bob interact with collectors for three days and two nights.

    He was a superb pitcher, World War II volunteer and war hero (with apologies to Mr. Feller's beliefs about war heroes), Hall of Famer, Goodwill Ambassador for The Game, and friendly to all. Simply put, he was the best.

  52. Bill Johnson Says:

    Bob was my dad's favorite player even though he grew up a White Sox fan. Maybe because he was just a year older than my dad or because he shared his war service. I'm going to see my 91 year old dad in a couple of weeks for Christmas and I'm reminded that maybe the gift from me he most enjoyed was an autographed picture of Bob, that I got him several years ago.

    RIP Rapid Robert.

  53. Bob Feller was the youngest pitcher to win a game in the majors and also the youngest pitcher to lose a game.

  54. [...] has been made about what his stats would have been had he not gone of to war. If you followed the volunteer link you know he had no regrets. He struck [...]

  55. dukeofflatbush Says:

    A couple of non-stat related anecdotes for you all...

    Bob Feller's father taught him to pitch on a farm, just like out of a scene from the NATURAL. His dad even bought a generator so he could string lights along the ground and Bob could pitch at night.

    He desperately wanted to be a pilot during WWII, but hearing problems kept him from flying. He attributed his hearing problems from working near farm equipment as a boy and being to close to gun shots on hunting trips. Not able to fly, the Navy offered him a cushy job as a fitness coach, which he refused, volunteering for combat duty.

    He was the first pitcher to be clocked. The first time was that ridiculous motorcycle stunt that Bob did in a suit and without warming up. That was purported to be 117-mph. The next, more scientific time, I believe it was Army missile equipment that clocked him at 98.6-mph, this was of course after his prime.

    Feller said he spent hours, 'rolling a ball' over into his hotel pillow every night while on the road. He claimed he learned the curve in the hotels.

    Feller did say a slip on the mound, where his follow through caught some loose dirt, popped his knee and back, and he said he never had near the velocity from that point on, but claimed it taught him to be more of a 'pitcher.'

    He talked to players who saw both him and Ryan in their primes, and most said he was faster. Walter Johnson said Feller was faster than himself and Waddel. Feller missed Waddel's then single season record of 349 Ks by 1.

    As far as the earlier comments, that the War may have saved some guys wear and tear... and then comparing Fellers comeback to Williams' or Greenburg's. Neither Greenburg or Williams saw any combat. Williams only saw combat in Korea. Feller was in dozens of battles and skirmishes. I wouldn't call that "time-off" or "rest".

    Feller's first wife fell ill, then became addicted and semi-sane from prescription medicine. Bob spent nearly everything he had trying to 'cure' her. That was one of the main reasons he barnstormed and played in the Cuban summer Leagues, for extra money for his wife. It also is hard to say what his stats would be like if not for the War, but especially if he didn't have to pitch year round. He also said, he couldn't sleep at home because of his wife's erratic behavior, staying up all night keeping an eye on her. He claimed to be in better form on the road because of that. I wonder if any stats can back that up?
    In the end, after all the help he gave his wife, she divorced him and took his house. Another reason he signed so many autographs and made so many appearances, but there never was a story of him not enjoying those moments.

    I met him once at an autograph show. I was too young to appreciate how lucky I was, and was more interested in seeing the contemporary players from the show, whom outside of Mike Schmidt, didn't even make eyecontact with the fans.
    I wish I had taken that time to talk to Mr. Feller.
    RIP

  56. #54 Duke - A quick look and it doesn't seem like there's much to the thought that he pitched better on the road. His baseline stats are all much better at home. Cleveland was a very good pitchers park then, however.

  57. Thanks for all the great observations & stories people.

    I recall that Feller hurt his ARM in '46. He was having a huge game, struck out something like the 1st 9 of 11, & then something popped in his arm. Grove had a similar injury in '34, & remained dominant without his top speed.

    DoF, that is all engaging. Though Walter Johnson never said Feller was faster than him. Johnson was almost a Saint, but quietly very proud of his fastball. Most said he was faster, though those who batted against both only saw the older Johnson. Feller himself acknowledged that Johnson was likely faster, though did not have his curve. Considering Johnson was arguably the greatest pitcher ever without a very good 2nd pitch-though he could throw off-speed well-this is likely. His Grandson wrote a book about him, "Baseball's Big Train", where he establishes that the famous quote that Johnson said nobody alive throws faster than Smokey Joe Wood was fictitious, crafted by a descendant of SJW.

    Johnson was taken to see Feller pitch, & remarked how he sure threw fast. The way I recall it, the sports writer then asked him if Feller was as fast as he was. Then you could see the struggle behind Walter's eyes, as his humility struggled with his pride & honesty.

    Finally he just quietly said "no".

  58. One of my first remembrances of Bob Feller was in 1940

    It was on opening day of the 1940 season.
    I was mostly a Cubs fan (living in Chicago), so listened to the opening day "Recreated" Broadcast of the Cubs vs Cincinnati. (I think the radio announcer at the time was Charlie Grimm).
    Cubs lost 2-1.

    After the game I neglected to tune the radio over to the White Sox game, and just left it on the Cubs station.

    Some time later an announcer broke into what was on the station at the time to excitedly say that Bob Feller had just thrown a 1-0 No Hitter for Cleveland against the White Sox.

    I was kicking myself all day after I heard that as I could have heard the White Sox vs Indians game "live", instead of listening to a "Recreated" game of a Cubs loss:

    Note the Cubs vs Reds time of game was 1:33
    The White Sox vs Indians time of game was 2:24

    Here is the Box Score of Fellers No Hitter on April 16, 1940

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHA/CHA194004160.shtml

  59. Mike Felber Says:

    A good news report about his life:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGokv7T1CaU

    And just for the silent appreciation of his skills. The slow motion footage is a beautiful things to watch. An extraordinary delivery.

  60. Mike Felber Says:
  61. Just to clarify, Feller wasn't the oldest living Hall of Famer, he was the longest tenured living Hall of Famer, dating back to 1962. That honor now falls on Stan Musial, who was elected in 1969. After Musial come Yogi Berra (1972), Sandy Koufax (1972), Monte Irvin (1973), Whitey Ford (1974), Ralph Kiner (1975), Ernie Banks (1977), Willie Mays (1979), Al Kaline (1980), Duke Snider (1980).

  62. My father in law served with Bob in the war on the Alabama. I have the catcher’s mitt he used when Bob was practicing. I recently donated it to the ship in Monroe Schlessingers name.

    I did write Bob regarding that last year & sent through the Indians club but did not hear back.

    There was quite a story about him playing during the war on the Alabama.

  63. The post @50 seemed offended by the one before it. Both dealt with Feller's statements and actions regarding black players.

    I was drafting a comment last night, the gist being that the good Feller did with his barnstorming tours should not preempt any discussion of the statements quoted @49 -- when my laptop spontaneously rebooted, and I decided to let it go.

    Today, Rob Neyer's blog had an essay by John Sickels, who wrote a book about Feller. http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/6661/sickels-knowing-bob-feller

    Sickels ended with a passage about showing the manuscript to Feller, who turned straight to the conclusion. This passage captures the essence of what I was trying to say last night:
    -------------------------------------------
    “His personality is more complex than either the purely positive or the abjectly negative myths imply. The all-American athlete image contains a great deal of truth that his detractors ignore, while the negative image pouts out the flaws in his personality that the all-American image papers over. Ultimately, Feller is far more interesting when considered as a whole human being ... There is much to admire in Bob Feller, and much of what he takes criticism for is unfair. There are also things that we can rightfully criticize about him, though this is true of any of us who fall short of divinity.”

    [Feller] read it, thought for a moment, looked up at me with a firm look in his eye, and said, “That’s fair.”

  64. Drew Cobb @53, wrong on both. Feller was not the youngest to win a ML game, or the youngest to lose.

    Feller was born 11/3/1918. His 1st win was 8/23/1936, so he was 17 years and 293 days. His first loss was a week later, so he was 17 years and 300 days.

    On 10/3/1943 Carl Scheib lost for the A's. He was born 1/1/1927, and so was 16 years and 275 days old. More than a year younger than Feller.

    Rogers Hornsby McKee, (think at least one of his parents was a baseball fan?), was born 9/16/1926. 17 days after his 17th birthday he won his 1st game. The date was 10/3/1943. The same day Scheib lost his 1st!

    I don't know if these in fact were the youngest in ML history as I quit when I found them.

  65. @63 John Autin - I read that essay by Sickles as well and thought it was well said :)

    By no means do I think Feller was perfect. But I think the poster in @48/49 was going for a low (and unfair) blow with his quotes...since those quotes were all he was bringing to the table.

  66. Kds @64, thanks for checking that. Out of all the things I'd heard about Feller, I'd never heard that, and it just didn't ring true.

    It's still possible that Feller was the youngest to own both a win and a loss, and maybe that's what Drew meant. Scheib didn't get a win until age 20, while McKee never got a loss.

  67. @65, Dave V -- Hi.

    I cordially disagree about 48/49. Well, I don't actually know what SocraticGadfly was going for there. But it seemed to me that he was trying to stir up a discussion, not do a hit-and-run character assassination. The quotes he presented seem to be accurate (I've seen them cited many places), and I think they're worth discussing, in an even-handed way.

    Look, I had a lot of admiration for Feller because of the barnstorming tours with Satchel & co. I think he did more good with those actions than he ever could have done with words; those tours helped black players get exposure, enhanced credibility, and above all, a decent living from the game. And I think the good that Feller did in that way likely outpaces whatever harm his words caused.

    But I can't just brush off the inconsistency between the actions and the words. In particular, the opinion Feller expressed (noted @49) that there wasn't a single player in the Negro Leagues who was good enough to make it in MLB. How could Feller have held that view after competing against those very players, without utterly dominating that competition?

  68. Hi John. I do think he was going for more of a hit-and-run character assassination more than anything else. The way he writes "I don't know if he had a particular reason for saying both of those.... but ...." and then also "It does make me think ... pictures of him next to black HOFfers aside ..." really rubbed me the wrong way.

  69. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I just read the Satchel bio a few months ago. It would be nice if I had a memory so I could share what it said about those barnstorming tours, and if Satch had any opinions on Feller. But, I don't, so....

  70. This is fascinating on many levels...an extended interview with Feller from 1957: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/feller_bob.html

  71. Going back to the 19th century two pitchers had seasons with both wins and losses at 16 years old. Jim Britt in the NA in 1872. (He led the league in losses in '72 and '73.) Willie McGill in the Players league in 1890. I'm not sure but I seem to remember the PL being considered to be stronger than either the NL or the AA, the other 2 major leagues, that year.

  72. Mike Felber Says:

    Dave, #68: those comments do not point to character assassination. They seem a thoughtful coming to terms with some misguided, possibly bigoted statements. When you even qualify with "I don't know if he had particular reasons to say...", clearly he seems to be open minded.

    Feller certainly seems overall a remarkable & inspirational man. Though some it is emotion, not reason, that would prevent us from permitting an evaluation of controversial statements, & when they seem factually or morally wrong, to reject them. Just as if we credit him for usually being generous with his time & gracious, if we want to see reality he should take blame for the times when he was mean or unkind.

    That does not deny that the ledger is mostly good, & what he accomplished very impressive.

  73. Dave V. thanks for posting the Mike Wallace interview. Well worth watching.

  74. Here's a bit more on Feller re: barnstorming with Satchel Paige and things of that ilk; worth reading and not too long:

    http://kevin-blackistone.fanhouse.com/2010/12/17/bob-fellers-brainstorm-helped-pave-way-for-baseball-integration/

    http://www.timothymgay.com/satchhighlights.php

  75. @74 Iron Horse - no prob & glad you enjoyed it :)

    @73 - I posted it earlier and I'll say it again. I don't think Feller was perfect. In no way am I trying to say he was a saint. I don't like the poster @48/@49 posted. IMO, he is trying to make Feller look like a racist...and nothing else. I have no problem with him posting Feller's own quotes, as Feller's words are his words. But to do so in a vacuum, without mentioning anything else, paints an incomplete portrait of Feller. And when he writes the following (and NOTHING else) after the quotes...

    "I don't know if he had a particular reason for saying both of those.... but ...."
    "It does make me think ... pictures of him next to black HOFfers aside ..."

    ...it is dirty in my eyes. We'll just have to agree to disagree, which is fine.

  76. That should say "I don't like the [way] poster @48/@49 posted." above.

    Enough :)

  77. @70 Johnny Twisto - what did you think of the Satchel bio overall? I read it a few months ago as well and I really enjoyed it myself.

  78. @78, Dave V -- You didn't ask me, but I give the Satchel bio a big thumbs up. But the best baseball books I read last year were:
    -- the Josh Gibson bio by Brashler;
    -- "The Pitch That Killed" by Sowell; and
    -- "The Machine" by Joe Posnanski

    Oh, and I also finally got around to reading "The Glory of Their Times," which was even better than everything I'd been hearing about it for 30 years.

    Andy -- How about a blog for readers to name their favorite baseball books? Maybe separate threads for fiction, biography/history, and stats/analysis? There's a good long one here (http://www.heymiller.com/2010/05/best-baseball-books/), but I'd be very interested to see what the B-R group would put together. (Apologies if it's been done & I missed....)

  79. @79 John Autin - good deal, as I hadn't noticed you read it as well. For me, it was right up there with "Clemente" by David Maraniss, as far as recent baseball bios.

    I want to read "The Machine" as well and the others you mentioned I may have to check out too.

    I'd like to see a spot for B-R readers to name their favorite baseball books as well!

  80. FWIW, baseball books that I like:

    http://waswatching.com/e-b-l/

    That list hasn't been updated in a while. But, here are some recent ones that I liked:

    http://waswatching.com/category/reviews/

  81. Bob Feller was a great Pitcher. He was an even greater American. I had the privilidge of spending time with Bob the past couple of years. He wrote a stunning Introduction to a book I wrote, and actually went to Cooperstown to do a book signing with me. At 90 years old, he was Pitching to the first two batters in an old timers game. "The Ball doesn't go as fast, but I throw as hard as I ever did" he told me. But Bob would rather have been remembered for his WWII service, his ambassordiship for Baseball, and his constant statement of the American Values system. He was particularly dilligent with children, always trying to get a message accross, whether it be about manors, princibles, or family values. Much has been written about this great man. I may have seen him pitch in his final season, but He was my hero for the man he was after Baseball. God rest his soul.

  82. Regarding the seemingly bigoted statement about Negro League players, I can say that another Hall of Famer, who played in those games with Feller told me two interesting things. 1. He said that everywhere they went, posters advertised Feller vs. Paige. He said, Paige was no match for Feller. I asked, you mean Paige wasn't as good as people say he was. He said, No, Paige was as good as people say, but Bob was from another palnet. 2. I asked him he realized at the time that the Negro League players coulod play in the majors, He said "They couldn't. They weren't coached to play in the majors. They were very talented, but didn't really know How to Play. He said it was great fun, and it was like playing the Harlem Globe Trotters. They had great athletisism, but they hadn't been trained in the nuances of the game. I hope that sheds some light on Bob's remarks, or at least says enough to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  83. #81 Steve. Maybe you should read "The Deal is on Strike Three". Bob Feller wrote the Introduction. THEDEALISONSTRIKETHREE.COM Maybe you can add it to your list!

  84. Mike Felber Says:

    That may be true Rudy, though I still severely doubt that a Josh Gibson or Charleston did not have the raw talent & baseball skills to be all time greats anywhere. Dave, those lines you quote very clearly point to a man struggling to understand seemingly bigoted statements. That he did not mention other context? It is only fair to assume he was not fully aware, or that most of us would be quite informed about his Paige/barnstorming history.

    Feller never reached the heights of the very greatest seasons of others, such as ERA +, though '46 came close. The reason he may have been much better than Paige is that the latter was already 40 by that time. Paige had superb heat & variety of pitches, it strains the imagination to think he would not have been an all time great in MLB.

  85. @83, Rudy -- Thanks for relating your first-hand experience with Mr. Feller.

    In particular, his comment that "They weren't coached to play in the majors. They were very talented, but didn't really know How to Play," along with mentioning the Harlem Globetrotters, gives a bit more texture to the other statements that have sparked the discussion here.

    As I've read more commentary in the wake of his passing, it seems more likely that Feller's initial (and controversial) view that no Negro Leaguers were ready to play in the majors does not reflect bigotry, but rather, the simple fact that he was not usually quick to praise any other player.

    Also, it may be that the '46 barnstorming tour was his first prolonged exposure to the style of play fostered in the Negro Leagues, which did include more clowning, "styling" and other overt attempts to entertain the audience than were currently practiced in the white majors (though such tactics had once been common there, too). Perhaps witnessing these antics, with his purist's eye, clouded his ability to judge whether those players also knew the subtler points of the game.

    And there was probably some measure of truth to Feller's comment about knowing the nuances. Most black players had very little coaching in childhood and not much more while playing in the Negro Leagues. The white majors could afford to enforce stricter standards, drawing from a much larger population to fill about the same number of top-level jobs, at better salaries, and with a vast minor-league system that served to teach the nuances, so that there was always a polished player (if not always an immensely talented one) available to fill any big-league roster spot.

    These are generalizations, of course; there were certainly players in the white majors who would not have met Feller's standard of "knowing how to play the game," and I think there were many in the Negro Leagues whose play would have passed muster with Feller, had he seen them in a different context. But barnstorming generally favors theatrics over "inside baseball" -- perhaps not so much for Feller's team, whom he selected, but quite likely for Paige's team. Even if Feller did see a bit of clowning by his own players on the tour, it probably would not have affected his opinion of them as major-league players, because of course he already knew them. But he would not have known many of the black players; if he saw them showboating like the Globetrotters, it would be understandable if he concluded that they didn't really "know how to play" his game.

  86. @63 and others: Thanks for the feedback. It wasn't a drive-by, it was intended as a discussion starter. Certainly, I know that Feller was ... "complex" on this issue. W/Robinson, while he later did have a general admission of being wrong, from what I've read, he never had a direct apology to Jackie. To me, that speaks less of possible racial issues Feller had than a problem with admitting when he was wrong. (More evidence for that, IMO, comes through in various black-and-white political opinions of his.)

    That said, I'll agree Feller deserves a kudo for the all-star tour. At the same time, others had done that, too ...

    ===

    Books? I read the new Willie biography; not bad. Not outstanding, but I think that's Willie more than the author. Haven't read Leavey's Mantle bio yet ... lots of 1-stars on Amazon, but many of them seemed hugely into hero worship.

  87. @86
    I think you might be digging yourself a hole there. Careful how you read @83. I don't think he's quoting Feller... I think he's quoting an unnamed fellow white barnstormer and showing that Feller was enlightened compared to him. (I wish he'd give a name... seems a bit coy to drop inflammatory statements like that and not tell us who said them. The Negro Leagues had been around for a few decades before integration and were quite competitive and players in those leagues had to pick up a bit of polish in order to stay on the team.

    My two cents is that Feller was a bit annoyed with Jackie Robinson personally, and not black players in general. Its like Feller felt like Robinson was getting too much attention and was "overrated". Why him and not Larry Doby or Satchel Paige or whoever? It turned out Feller was wrong, though, Robinson was actually a much better player than most people remember. Still, its not uncommon for two star players with strong personalities to be annoyed with each other. But with race involved, statements like the ones he made are bound to be blown up and it wouldn't be the last time Feller stuck his foot in his mouth.

    Sickels' book is a good read. The case for Feller is very complex. What passed for racially tolerant or even progressive in the 1940s is much different than what what we think of those things in the 2010s. And often people don't update with the times as they get older as quickly as they could (or perhaps should). I'm not trying to excuse, but to explain. I can't do the issue justice on this board. You should read the book.

  88. @88, 86, 83 and others:
    Just read Neyer's post on SweetSpot. From all that's discussed here, I think the "difficult," and the other aspects of the assessment are fair. Agreed that **societal standards** for what is tolerant, or more, does change.

    As for black players not being coached right, bullshit. They had their own major league-level teams, with postseason, postseason money, etc. They played to win for that reason alone if nothing else, and were coached to win. You didn't win by "clowning."

    As for the barnstorming, it was clear back in the 1920s that black players could play with the best white major leaguers. Therefore, the claim that Feller's 1946 tour suddenly "enlightened" white MLB is simply fatuous. What "enlightened" white MLB, besides Rickey, was the fact that Landis was dead.

  89. #89 and numerous others before, in terms of coaching of players, I would suspect that there was a perceived cultural gap between the segregated major leagues and the Negro Leagues, and white players and coaches of the day who felt that Negro leaguers couldn't "make it" in the majors may have been referring more to rules of the clubhouse, conduct on and off the field, etc. I'd like to stress that these perceived differences may not necessarily have been viewed as better or worse, just different. Remember that in the days before desegregation and political correctness, it was socially acceptable to say that people simply didn't belong together because of cultural differences--and that may be all that Feller was getting at in his comments.

    I'd like to stress that I have no idea what Feller was thinking--just making a guess--and also that I don't agree with such notions of segregation, having the benefit of growing up during a more forward-thinking era.

  90. Roger Angell has weighed in on Feller, too. His extra-baseball personality? Angell uses the word "ungenerous."

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2010/12/postscript-bullet-bob-feller.html

  91. Dave V, the statement above did make me stop for a second and got me to wondering what the poster’s intentions were, but for the most part I’m guessing he was just introducing them into the dialogue. They are part of Feller's history, so they can't be ignored.

    It’s difficult to interpret the words of a man born nearly a century ago, and who grew up on a farm in Iowa, through lens of 2010 modern America, especially when the person in question was Bob Feller, who was unflinchingly honest and politically incorrect. It reminds me years ago there were some people who wanted to ban Mark Twain’s books because they didn’t fit modern society’s sensibilities when it comes to race. Thankfully, that movement died a quick death.

    As for Bob Feller, he clearly had his prejudices, but I’d like to think the sum of his life actions and what he said later in life say more about him than the snippets from earlier years. While he clearly did say that he didn’t think blacks could play in the majors, he also recanted that, saying that time and experience showed he was wrong. He went into business with Satchel Paige with their barnstorming teams, told the Cleveland Indians that Paige could pitch in the majors, and eventually lobbied for Paige’s induction into the HOF, as well as other black players, adding that Buck O’Neil’s failure to be elected to the Hall was one of the “biggest mistake since the Hall started.” If he was a racist, he became a pretty enlightened one.

    As noted, much is made of other statements he made, but those trying to paint the case against him, often take them out of context, or worse, don’t include the entire statement, such as noting he said “I don’t think baseball owes colored people anything,” while conveniently leaving out the second part of his statement, “I don’t think colored people owe baseball anything either.” Not great by any means, but it’s also clearly Bob Feller, and fits how he seemed to think about many things in life. When noting his statement that he didn’t think Jackie Robinson could play in the majors, they leave out that he thought it was because he was too muscle-bound to hit in the majors, echoing a misperception from those times that muscles were bad! And, of course, the fact he criticized Willie Mays and some of the perceived “styling” from Mays’ great catch against Vic Wertz has also been used against him. Yet he said it was a great catch and Mays was a great player. He seemed to think there was some “hotdog” in Mays. I can’t disagree with that, because there was hotdog in Mays. He never gave an inch to any opponent, with an opponent being anyone he played against, or anyone that might diminish his own place in history. I don’t see his comment about Mays’ catch any differently than I see his comment about Stephen Strasburg, when he said “Call me when he wins his first 100." Just ike the quote about Mays, if anyone was to read the surrounding quotes from Feller about Mays and Strasburg, they'd see very little that was negative. Just sounds like Bob Feller. He’s said similar things about many, many players over the years, black and white. Sure, he was a curmudgeon at 90, but he also was one at 30!

    I’m not trying to whitewash anything here. Just a different perspective. Bob Feller used to say regularly that his father raised him to never judge people by the color of their skin. When trying to sum up Bob Feller the person, I think John Autin @63’s statement from John Sickels says it best.

  92. @89: "As for black players not being coached right, bullshit."

    Perhaps you misunderstood me. I meant that, in the time before integration, there was less coaching available to the average black ballplayer at every level, from childhood all the way up to the professional ranks, than there was for the average white player. I don't see how you can possibly refute this.

    "They had their own major league-level teams...."

    If you meant that, in some years, there were Negro Leagues teams that could have contended for the MLB championship; and/or that in most years, the top few teams in the Negro Leagues could have held their own in the white majors; or that in any given year, there were many players in the Negro Leagues who would have been top stars in MLB -- then I agree wholeheartedly.

    But all those things are also true of the Pacific Coast League in that era. So if you meant that the Negro Leagues, in general, were major league-level, then I disagree. Overall, team for team, top to bottom, year in and year out, I don't believe the Negro Leagues as leagues had the depth of talent to be considered on a par with the white majors.

    I have no doubt that, given equal opportunity (or anything like it), the Negro Leagues would have been on a par with MLB. But the opportunities were far from equal, and the consequent reality is that the average level of play in the Negro Leagues did not quite measure up to the majors.

    "...with postseason, postseason money, etc. They played to win for that reason alone if nothing else...."

    Yes, but what does that have to do with coaching?

    "..., and were coached to win."

    Yes, but so was my last Little League team. Doesn't mean we had major league-level coaching.

    I'm just wondering -- do you really know something about the amount and extent of coaching that black ballplayers of that era received? If so, why not say what you know, instead of just saying "bullshit."

    "You didn't win by 'clowning'."

    But I never said they did. You've mixed up something I mentioned in the context of barnstorming, and you've made it seem like I said they were whistling "Sweet Georgia Brown" during the Negro League World Series.

    I do think there was some level of styling -- showboating, clowning, call it what you will -- in some regular-season games in the Negro Leagues. As with the Browns under Bill Veeck, most Negro Leagues teams' financial existence required that they sometimes put on a little bit more of a show than the pure game of baseball.

    And who says clowning is inconsistent with playing to win? Even back when they were playing legitimate games, the Harlem Globetrotters did some clowning and still won. I don't think Negro Leagues teams goofed around when they were playing important games against tough competition. But the level of competition in the Negro Leagues was erratic; there were plenty of games when one team completely outclassed its opponent. What would be wrong with putting on a bit of a show then?

  93. In a more general Feller vein, you may have heard this trivia question:

    Name the only game in MLB history where every player on a team went into a regulation nine-inning game and came out of it with the same batting average.

    The answer is supposed to be Bob Feller's no-hitter on Opening Day. This question has been referenced uncritically by Joe Posnanski and Roger Angell, and probably many others in the past week.

    But it's wrong. Batting averages are undefined before Opening Day. You can't divide by zero.

    I know it's just a stupid trivia question. But it's hard to get your kid to care about math when crap like this is so widely accepted, and even passed along by some of the best writers in the game.

    Angell wrote that he himself "used to bring [it] up in the form of a terrific stumper," and that "The average is .000, and your average nine-year-old now knows the answer before you’ve finished asking."

    Posnanski wrote that the trivia question was Feller's favorite, but then said the answer "was Feller’s no-hitter. Each White Sox player came into the game hitting .000 and left hitting the same three digits."

    If they know that 0 divided by 0 is undefined, but used the line anyway because it's good copy and only a few math geeks will care, then that's just bad journalism. And if they don't know that 0 divided by 0 is undefined, it makes me sad, since the game about which they write so eloquently is utterly steeped in averages.

  94. @93 The implication was that black major league coaching was lacking vs. white major league coaching. Ditto on black major league clowning vs. white major league seriousness. Bit of a straw man, IMO, to bring in the Little Leaguers. Also, Little Leaguers usually don't have to worry about money.

    As for the Globetrotters clowning? That was itself often and largely what the largely white audiences paid to see. In essence, the Globetrotters were playing to white stereotypes to some degree. Also, they were paid primarily for that, not for beating the Washington Generals. That said, the Globetrotters could, and did, play serious hoops when needed. So, again, bit of a straw man, IMO.

    Meanwhile, did the Negro Leaguers clown around on their own? Yes. So did the all-white Gas House Gang Cardinals. But, nobody claimed they weren't seriously managed, etc.

    That said, issue No. 3. I don't believe Feller, or others, were talking about the "Negro Leagues" as a lump sum. They were talking about Negro Leaguers" as individuals, instead.

  95. A lot of interesting points have been made in this thread.

    Just a couple of more.

    Ted Williams thought and said that Bob Feller was the best pitcher he ever faced. Period.

    I had the privilege of meeting Bob Feller, shaking his hand and talking wiht him...and getting an autographed baseball at a minor league ballplark in Salem Oregon in 1991.

    I knew that he had been asked every conceivable question possible...so I asked him..if he had a choice beside baseball...what would he have done in his life? I thought it was deep.....

    And he replied....there wasnt anything else...just baseball. I loved it!
    and I got the Feller look in the eyes.

    That was it, strike 3.... I just said thank you for your time, Mr. Feller, it was a great honor to meet you...and I went to beat feet. He said you re welcome.....put his hand on the head of my 3 year old son and said...

    be good to your son.

    Bob Feller probably autographd more baseballs then any player who ever lived. And in terms of dollars and cents it that autograph isn t worth that much.

    But the Feller handshake and that 3 minutes wht him was a memory of inestimable value.

    And that autographed baseball sits on a shelf in my son s living room.

  96. Phil Cavarretta has just died. Fitting that him and Feller died in the same week as they were both notable teenage stars of the mid-1930s. Cavarretta dominates the age 18 leaderboards:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/leaders_18_bat.shtml

    Cavarretta didn't have a career anywhere near as great as Feller's but it was a long career and he did win an MVP during the war.

    And Oracle of Baseball fans know him as the guy who started his career as a teammate with Charlie Grimm (who played with Lajoie) and ended his career across town as a teammate of Minnie Minoso (who played with Harold Baines). So he shows up on those lists all the time.

  97. @97, DavidRF -- Sad news about Cavarretta. I just read that he was the last living player who had played against Babe Ruth (in '35, when Ruth was a Brave in his final season). Ruth homered in the last game that they faced each other.

    Thought I'd throw out a few quick Cavaretta facts garnered from B-R:

    -- His 20 seasons with the Cubs is the most in club history. (Banks and Hartnett played 19 each.)

    -- He got his first hit in his first start, at the age of 18 -- a HR in a 1-0 win.

    -- He hit the last World Series HR by a Cub, in game 1 of the '45 WS, providing the final run in their 9-0 rout of the Tigers. He also had the next-to-last WS hit in club history, an 8th-inning single in game 7. (SS Roy Hughes got their last WS hit.) Cavaretta, who was the NL MVP that year, had a terrific Series, hitting .423 with a .500 OBP, 7 runs and 5 RBI.

    -- He still holds almost all the 18-and-under season batting records, from his 1935 season. OK, he's one of just two 18-year-olds who ever qualified for the batting title (joining Johnny Lush, 1904). But Cavaretta had a decent season, with a 93 OPS, 85 runs and 82 RBI for the NL pennant winners.

  98. "They weren't ready, weren't polished..." Careful Bob, your bias is showing. Look at the won - loss record between the barnstorming all star teams. Look at 16 of the next 20 NL MVP's.

    Rube Foster came up with tons of innovations copied by John McGraw and Branch Rickey. Ken Burns does a good job outling much of this,. Check it out.

    It must be ludicrous to today's generation to hear old people say the players in the Negro Leagues were inferior. The Major league records before 1947 should be the one's in question.

    BTW: He and the other major leaguers made $$$ barnstorming against Negro league teams, they didn't do it for any other reason.

  99. @99
    I don't think Bob said that. It was one of his fellow barnstormers.

    The Negro League stars were just as good (if not better) and therefore the Negro League All Star teams were just as good (if not better) but I think the point the other poster was trying to make was that the overall leagues themselves were at a slightly lower level. That's most likely true. Any time you are drawing from 10% of the population instead of 80+%, then depth issues enter in at some point.

    They've done MLE's for Negro Leaguers at the Hall of Merit and there although there was a small discount applied to their raw numbers, many NeL-ers still had incredibly impressive MLE's.

  100. @99, GD wrote:
    "BTW: [Feller] and the other major leaguers made $$$ barnstorming against Negro league teams, they didn't do it for any other reason."

    Probably true. But everything's relative in this regard, no? Within the context of that time, isn't there merit to letting the profit motive outweigh any (possible) prejudice?

    Plenty of other stars through the years could have made money the same way Feller did. But some of them wouldn't even consider playing against blacks.

    I think that if every white person in 1946 America had been willing to interact with black people for purely commercial motives, but with a civil and professional attitude, regardless of their actual beliefs, life in America would have been a hundred times better for blacks than it actually was at that time. Actions speak louder....

  101. mr.baseballcard Says:

    Wanted to share some memories I had of Bob Feller from the summer of 2001, when I visited Cooperstown (small plug here for the GREAT posts about the HoF from Steve Lombardi.)

    1) Left the HoF for lunch and walking down the main street of town, saw that a card shop near the museum had Bob Feller signing autographs for $25. I have a phillosophical problem paying for autographs, but liked Feller from his years on the HoF Board and stopped to watch.
    - My wife asked why we were stopping and when I explained that we were watching Bob Feller, she replied "but he didn't win 300 games, couldn'thave been that good" - No I did not seek divorce on the spot.
    - Watched and loved how he interacted with a small 9 year old boy getting a baseball autographed. Asked if he was good in math and when the kid said yes, Feller took out a picture of himself from the 1954 WS and told the kid that he played in the 50th WS ever played in 1954. Then explained that 1 year the WS wasn't played. Therefore, when was the first WS played? The poor kid couldn't answer and BF handed him the unpaid for autographed picture and told hiim if he could solve the math lesson after lunch, he would give him a second autographed pic.
    - At this point, about 20 people (all male except for my wife) were standing around and in awe of Bob Feller, hanging on his every word. At this point his 80ish year old wife came up, snapped her fingers and said so all could hear, "Robert, lunch is ready. Come home now!" Without a word, Bob Feller who had fought bravely in WWII and faced Joe D + Teddy Ballgame, turned and followed his wife down the main street of Cooperstown.

  102. mr.baseballcard Says:

    Later that afternoon, we left the Museum and walked to get some ice cream around the corner in a little trailer near the ball field in town. Bob Feller and his wife were there having some ice cream and while my wife got me my ice cream I walkedup to Mr. Feller, introduced myself as a fan. He started to shoo me away when I blurted out that I loved how he had publicly took a stance against allowing Pete Rose in the HoF, and I admired him for that and agreed with his point of view. He simply said thank you, and walked away.
    In the evening, we left the HofF when it closed @ 8:00 pm, and wanted to get some dinner. Problem was that Cooperstown is a small town and the restaurants on Main Street were all closed by 8:00 pm. We ran to a pizza/Italian place right across the street and the woman at the door explained that although the place was open, the kitchen was closed and she couldn't let us sit down. Hungry and disappointed, we turned to leave when out of nowhere a booming voice called out, "Hey, whatever the woman's name was, let them stay and tell, whatever the cook's name was, to get some food for these nice young people. This young man agrees with me. It was Bob Feller who was just finishing dinner with his wife. We got to sit down and had one of the more memorable dinners in my life talking with Mr. and Mrs. Feller. When told the story of how she had summoned her husband earlier in the day, Mrs. Feller told my wife "but to me he is just Robert, not a Hall of Famer".
    Wonderful couple.

  103. @103, Nice story!

    I also just got around to watching the Mike Wallace interview with Bob Feller in 1957, linked above. Wow, interesting on a few levels. Unrelated to baseball, amazing how they integrated Philip Morris and smoking into the entire interview. Funny yet uncomfortable at the same time. Feller seemed a but uneasy with the interview format, continually arching his eyebrow. Also interesting to hear how far ahead he was of most players on eliminating the reserve clause. Mike Wallace almost made it sound like Feller was crazy for supporting such a silly notion!

  104. @102-103, Mr.baseballcard -- Nice story.

    I'd be impressed with any 9-year-old who could correctly answer Feller's math question on the spot, even if it didn't have the extra complication of no WS in 1904.

    For a lot of people, that type of question is harder than it should be. Even if there were no WS gap year to grapple with, I think most adults would get it wrong, because they'd work it this way: "1954 was the 50th WS. 1954 minus 50 is [pause] 1904. So the first WS was played in 1904."

    I often have to explain to someone that, if you have a span of enumerated items and you want to know how items are in the span, inclusive, you have to subtract the numbers and then add 1.

    Or to put it another way: Show the average person a list of things numbered 1 to 10, they know immediately that there are 10 things, because they instinctively grasp the concept of counting from 1; they don't have to do "10 minus 1, plus 1." But show them a list numbered 10 to 20, and most will think there 10 things in that list, too.

    Sadly, this is the same majority who insist that we mark our centuries starting with a year that ends in "-00".

    P.S. Far from divorcing your wife for the crack about Feller not winning 300 games, I'm pretty sure you should buy her something for knowing that (a) 300 wins is a meaningful number and (b) Feller didn't get there.

  105. Oops, bad typo in my 4th paragraph:
    "... you want to know how many items are in the span...."

    (Guess I should stick to numbers!)