Brush with baseball royalty: Meeting Bob Feller

I got to meet Bob Feller about two years ago when he bought a booth in the basement of the Chicago Cubs fan convention. Even at 90 years old, he was out and about, selling pictures, autographs and other memorabilia.

Feller had a reputation for being a cranky old-timer, and there was some evidence of it. He was codgerly. But it didn't matter to me. He had a sharp wit and he said what he thought. What more do you want from someone entering his 10th decade on Earth?

And it was like meeting a god. His baseball accomplishments are awe-inspiring enough. His war record is humbling. Feller set a great example for all of us, no matter our place in this world, no matter what life gives us.

Getting to shake his hand — the man had huge hands — might have been the best part. But he did talk briefly, mostly about how Kerry Wood(notes) was bound to struggle closing games for the Cleveland Indians. Maybe Feller was being cranky, but he also turned out to be right.

Feller missed the 2010 Cubs Convention because of illness — the last year of his life was a trial, physically — but he was back at Indians spring training in March, doing interviews, being Bob Feller. Still a fighter.

I hoped he could make it to next month's Cubs Convention, until it became apparent his time was short. Feller died Wednesday night. He was 92.

We will have to make do with our memories.

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