December 09, 2010
It's been a sad year in baseball, as we've lost so many icons of the game — Ron Santo, Sparky Anderson, George Steinbrenner — just to name a few.
Feller, 92, recently had been admitted to the Cleveland Clinic with pneumonia. That was likely a complication of his treatment for leukemia, which Feller was diagnosed with in August.
But Feller has struggled through a variety of serious ailments over the past few months. Chemotherapy treatments had resulted in him suffering from vertigo. A heart problem required the installation of a pacemaker. And when Feller was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic, he was also diagnosed with thrush, an infection of the mucus membrane lining the mouth and throat that was preventing him from eating.
Feller pitched 18 seasons for the Indians, compiling a 266-162 record and 3.25 ERA. That win total is the highest in franchise history. Feller also is the team's all-time leader in innings pitched (3,827), strikeouts (2,581), complete games (279) and games started (484). He threw three no-hitters in his career and 12 one-hitters.
Additionally, Feller also holds Indians single-season records for complete games (36), strikeouts (348), innings pitched (371 1/3), walks (208) and shutouts (10).
The man was so good that he earned not one, not two, but three nicknames. He was called "Rapid Robert" for a fastball that was estimated to reach 104 miles per hour. (Feller claimed to once throw even harder than that.) But this was before the advent of radar guns, so unusual methods were sometimes deployed to gauge Feller's fastball. Such as racing it against a motorcycle.
In 1941, for example, a motorcycle going 86 mph roared up behind him and tried to beat his pitch to the plate. The pitch won easily. Deduced from that: Feller threw at 104.
Feller was also called "Bullet Bob" (hopefully he didn't throw his fastball beside a firing handgun) and "The Heater from Van Meter," his hometown in Iowa. (Van Meter features a museum devoted to Feller and his career.)
And he accomplished all of these feats despite missing three seasons while serving in World War II. He enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed. After returning from the war, Feller went on to pitch for 12 more seasons.
Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. His No. 19 was retired by the Indians in 1957, one of only seven numbers given that honor by the team.