R.I.P. Rapid Robert

Bob Feller began playing in the Major Leagues at age 17. 

At age 17, I was just slouching my way through high school, working (and playing) at a golf course, and blowing money on music.  I didn’t have much discipline, but he was 17, playing for the Cleveland Indians, and he struck out 17 batters in one game.  Unreal.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  On December 8, 1941, Bob Feller enlisted for combat.   He served four years on the USS Alabama.  The Alabama wasn’t a luxury cruise ship, and Bob Feller wasn’t there to sign autographs and conduct baseball clinics.  He was a gun captain, and he missed four baseball seasons till the World War 2 Pacific campaign ended. 

I was just wondering how many of todays multi-million dollar pitchers would enlist in the Navy today, under similar circumstances.  Bob Feller is the only Chief Petty Officer in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bob Feller said one of the coolest things, in my opinion: : “What kid wouldn’t enjoy the life I led in Iowa? Baseball and farming, and I had the best of both worlds.”

Bob Feller was a tribute to The Greatest Generation.  If he’d played at the same level today, his four years of wartime service would’ve cost him $40,000,000 or more in missed salary. 

I don’t think he’d have cared. 

The guy was a hero.  He played his whole life with one team, raised three kids, was a war hero, and once threw a fastball over 107 mph. 

Just look at this picture–you know he’s going to throw it by somebody.

Bob Feller was a baseball star and a Navy CPO, all this without losing the hard-working farmboy values inside him. 

On Wednesday, he died of complications from pneumonia, following leukemia treatment.  He was 92. One of his last quotes was, “Nobody lives forever.  And I’ve led a very blessed life.”

RIP, Bob.  And thanks.

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10 Responses to “R.I.P. Rapid Robert”

  1. We don’t follow baseball here in Australia, or play it at all really, but I played softball at school and thrived on it. What position did he play? Was he a pitcher? Because damn, it must have been scary facing him down on the diamond. Can’t even imagine all the kinds of pain his shoulder must have given him. I just love that photo. That determination. But to still be able to pull out a killer smile in the next war photo. Rapid Robert, never heard of him before, stumbled across him on your blog and will now spend the rest of the night thinking about him. lol, go figure.

    • If nothing else, baseball is just spectacular for nicknames. Bob Feller was known as “Rapid Robert,” “Bullet Bob,” and “The Heater from Van Meter.” (Van Meter, Iowa, was his home town). There were a number of ballplayers who served in WW2. Ted Williams (“The Splendid Splinter,” “Teddy Ballgame,” “Terrible Ted”) actually served in WW2 then reinlisted to fight in the Korean War. He was a jet fighter.

      Bob Feller was one of the hardest throwing pitchers ever. Scarily, most years, he was among the league leaders in hit batters.

      Ouch.

      Thanks for stopping by. It’s usually a bit less somber, but Bob deserved a little decorum.

  2. Awesome. I hadn’t heard of Bob Feller until last night on the news. And that told me not much. This, however, is a wonderful tribute!

    • Yeah, Thursday’s paper gave him a paragraph, but he deserved more. One of the big sports stories was tha Cliff Lee signed a free agent contract to pitch for the Phillies. He’ll make big money, but he chose Philly because he liked playing there, and his wife likes the city. The Yankees offered him tens of millions more, but he left it on the table.

      I think Bob Feller would approve, somehow.

  3. Thanks for telling his story, Tom. That’s a remarkable life. I have only recently begun to appreciate baseball and it’s nice to know stories like his.

    • Baseball is like Martinis, in that it can take awhile to appreciate them. There were a lot of heroes in the mid 20th Century major leagues. Bob Feller was one of them.

      Happy Weekend, Laurie.

  4. I miss the Bob Fellers of the world.

  5. Karl Kling Says:

    Hi Tom,
    Loved your thoughts about Rapid Robert! I grew up hearing his name, but never realized he threw 107mph! That’s some serious smoke. Something even for Matt Garza & Joaquin Benoit to shoot for! I love that some of his last words were “I’ve lived a blessed life …” Also love those mid-America qualities of humility, hard work, and serving others. Thanks for passing along this great story! Look forward to the next installment! Karl

    • Thanks, Karl. Bob Feller “only” won 261 games, whereas the magic number is 300 wins. It’s a baseball junkie’s instinct to imagine how many more games he’d have won if he’d pitched those 4 seasons, instead of fighting in the Pacific. Somebody asked him about that, and he said it wasn’t something he thought about, and moreover that his Navy experience made him more mature and disciplined, as a man and as a pitcher. He had an amazing right arm, but I am impressed just as much by his mind. Merry Christmas, Karl, and thanks for stopping by.

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