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Robert William Andrew "Bob" Feller

Birthdate: (92)
Death: December 15, 2010 (92) (Leukemia)
Place of Burial: Gates Mills, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Immediate Family:

Son of William Andrew Feller and Helena Forret Feller
Husband of Virginia Feller and Lucille Miller

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Bob Feller

Robert William Andrew "Bob" Feller (November 3, 1918 – December 15, 2010), nicknamed "The Heater from Van Meter," "Bullet Bob," and "Rapid Robert," was an American Major League Baseball pitcher. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

One of the best right-handed pitchers in baseball history, Feller was a prodigy who entered the major leagues when he was 17. Feller played for the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1956, his career interrupted by four years of military service during World War II. He became the first pitcher to win at least twenty games in a season before the age of 21, threw three no-hitters and twelve one-hitters (both records at the time of his retirement), led the American League in strikeouts in seven seasons, and pitched 279 complete games. Feller was renowned for his fastball, which was officially clocked at 98 miles per hour (A record at the time, later Broken by Nolan Ryan) by the U.S. Army, although it is commonly believed that he could throw much harder than that. Ted Williams called Feller "the fastest and best pitcher I ever saw during my career", and Stan Musial believed he was "probably the greatest pitcher of our era."

Early life

Feller was born and raised in Van Meter, Iowa. His father ran the family farm, and his mother was a registered nurse and a teacher. Feller credited his arm strength and ball speed to milking cows, picking corn, and baling hay. He recalled his childhood fondly: "What kid wouldn't enjoy the life I led in Iowa? Baseball and farming, and I had the best of both worlds." The family's farm is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Feller's father built a baseball diamond on the farm that he named "Oak View Park," then recruited his son and others to play for a team he named The Oakviews.

Feller attended Van Meter High School, and was a starting pitcher for their team. His sister Marguerite played for the girls' basketball team, and was the Iowa state ping-pong champion. Professional career

Feller was signed by scout Cy Slapnicka for $1 and an autographed baseball. Upon being made General Manager of the Indians, Slapnicka transferred Feller's contract from Fargo-Moorhead to New Orleans to the majors without the pitcher so much as visiting either farm club, in clear violation of baseball rules. After a three-month investigation, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis made it clear that he did not believe what Slapnicka or Cleveland president Alva Bradley said but awarded Feller to the Indians anyway, partly due to the testimony of Feller and his father, who wanted Bob to play for Cleveland.

Feller joined the Cleveland Indians without having played in the minors. He spent his entire career of 18 years with the Indians, being one of "The Big Four" Indians pitching rotation in the 1950s, along with Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia. He ended his career with 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts and led the American League in strikeouts seven times and bases on balls four times. His fastball was nicknamed "the Van Meter Heater." He pitched three no-hit games and shares the major league record with 12 one-hitters. Feller was the first pitcher to win 20 or more games before the age of 21. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. When he was 17 years of age, he struck out 17 batters; he and Kerry Wood are the only two players ever to strike out their age (Wood struck out 20 on May 6, 1998).

On October 2, 1938, Feller set a modern major league record of 18 strikeouts against the Detroit Tigers. On Opening Day in the 1940 season, Feller pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox, with the help of a diving play on the final out by second baseman, Ray Mack. This is the only no-hitter to be thrown on Opening Day in major league history.

When asked whether he threw harder than any other pitcher ever, Feller responded that, at the end of his career, players who had batted against him and also against Nolan Ryan had said Feller threw harder than Ryan. If that was the case, Feller threw over 102 mph. There is footage of Feller being clocked by army ordnance equipment (used to measure artillery shell velocity) and hitting 98.6. However, this took place in the later years of his career, and the machine used, like most of the machines at the time, measured the speed of the ball as it crossed the plate whereas now the speed is measured as it leaves the pitcher's hand. Feller once mentioned that he was clocked at 104 mph at Lincoln Park in Chicago. He also threw the second fastest pitch ever officially recorded, at 107.6 mph, in a game in 1946 at Griffith Stadium.

When Feller retired in 1956, he held the major league record for most walks in a career (1,764). He still holds the 20th century record for most walks in a season (208 in 1938).

In 1943, Feller married Virginia Winther (1916–1981), daughter of a Wisconsin industrialist. They had three sons, Steve (b. 1945), Martin (b. 1947), and Bruce (b.1950). In retirement, he lived with his wife, Anne Feller, in Gates Mills, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. In 2010, he threw out the first pitch at the Indians' first home spring training game at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona.

Military service

On December 8, 1941, Feller enlisted in the Navy, volunteering immediately for combat service, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to do so following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Feller served as Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama, and missed four seasons during his service in World War II, being decorated with five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. His bunk is marked on the Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. Feller is the only Chief Petty Officer in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Subsequent career

One year after his return to Major League action, in 1946, he registered an incredible 348 strikeouts while pitching in 48 games, starting 42 of those games. That year Feller was 26-15 with an ERA of 2.18 while pitching 36 complete games. He led the American League in strikeouts seven times and had 200 or more strikeouts five times. Feller pitched in 570 games during his career, and pitched in 40 or more games six seasons. Feller also threw three no-hit games including the only opening day no-hitter in baseball history in 1940. He had 46 shutouts during his career with 10 of those in 1946. Many baseball historians have speculated that Feller would have won perhaps 350 games with well over 3,000 strikeouts had he not joined the military. He was honored as "The greatest pitcher of his time" by the Sporting News.


Throughout his career, Feller criss-crossed the country playing exhibition games in the off-season, showcasing his legendary fastball for fans in large, medium and small towns. His barnstorming tours often featured other big leaguers and/or Negro League stars, like Satchel Paige.

In 1947, Feller announced that he would pitch in the Cuban winter league during the off-season, but major league baseball commissioner Happy Chandler ruled that no major leaguer could play in Cuba during the winter.

Feller's barnstorming business savvy made him one of the wealthiest players of his time. As a result, Feller did not have to take off-season jobs to make ends meet, like many players of his era did, which allowed Feller to become a physical fitness pioneer. While other players waited until spring training to get in shape, Feller had the time to do push-ups, sit-ups, calisthenics and stretching, following a rigorous regimen.

In June 2009, at the age of 90, Feller was one of the starting pitchers at the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic, which replaces the Hall of Fame Game at Cooperstown, New York.


In 1995, the Bob Feller Museum opened in Van Meter, Iowa. Designed by Feller's son Stephen, an architect, on land donated by Brenton Banks, the museum has two rooms that contain Feller memorabilia and items from his own collection.

Final months

In August 2010, Feller was treated for leukemia.[18] In October, Feller was fitted with a pacemaker and was diagnosed with pneumonia and thrush, an infection of the mucus membrane lining the mouth and throat. By December 8, he had been transferred from the Cleveland Clinic to hospice care.

On December 15, Feller died of complications from leukemia.


Prior to his death, he was the longest tenured living Hall of Famer—that title now belongs to Stan Musial

Winningest pitcher in Cleveland Indians history (266 victories)

Led league in wins six times (1939–41, 1946–47, 1951)

Led league in ERA (1940)

Led league in strikeouts seven times (1938–41, 1946–48)

Pitched three no-hitters, including the only Opening Day no-hitter.

8-time All-Star (1938–41, 1946–48, 1950)

Inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1962

Only Chief Petty Officer in United States Navy history to be elected to a major sports Hall Of Fame. In 1999, he ranked Number 36 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Was a part of an Abbot and Costello routine that preceded Who's on First. What Feller. Feller with the Cleveland Indians. There are nine Fellers on the Cleveland Team. Now which Feller are you talking about?


Burial: Gates Mills North Cemetery, Gates Mills, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA

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Bob Feller's Timeline

November 3, 1918
December 15, 2010
Age 92
Gates Mills, Cuyahoga County, Ohio