Position: Pitcher
Teams: Cleveland Indians, 1936-1941, 1945-1956

Bob Feller
After returning from World War II, Bob
Feller had his finest season in 1946
when he won 26 games and logged
348 strikeouts.

Bob Feller was probably harmed more than any other great pitcher by World War II. While serving in the Navy, he lost nearly four full seasons just as he was entering his prime. Had Feller’s career proceeded without interruption, he might now be considered the greatest pitcher in history.

Born in 1918 in Van Meter, Iowa, Robert William Andrew Feller was signed by Cleveland while still a 16-year-old high school student, in 1935. The signing was illegal according to the rules of the time and would have cost the Indians the rights to Feller had commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis not feared a gargantuan bidding war among the other teams if Feller was made a free agent. For even as a teenager, he was renowned for the blazing fastball that would soon gain him the nickname “Rapid Robert.”

No one could have taught Feller what he possessed when he debuted with Cleveland in a July 1936 exhibition game against the Cardinals. Though only 17, Feller was already so swift that he fanned eight Redbirds in the three innings he hurled, causing home plate umpire Bob Ormsby to label him the fastest pitcher Ormsby had ever seen, Walter Johnson included.

All did not come easy, though, for Bob. Batters quickly learned that while he was virtually unhittable, they could nevertheless reach base simply by waiting for walks. In 1938, he topped the major leagues with 240 strikeouts and also set a modern single-game record when he fanned 18 Tigers in his last start of the season. Notwithstanding his remarkable feat, Feller lost the contest, due in part to walks. Along with his record-shattering strikeout performance, Rapid Robert also set a new modern mark for bases on balls in 1938 when he gave up 208 free passes.

His control slowly improving, Feller paced the American League in wins during each of the next three seasons and then went into the Navy. His prewar high and low points both came in 1940. That year, Feller tossed the first Opening Day no-hitter in American League history but then closed out the season with a 1-0 loss to Detroit that killed Cleveland’s hope for its first pennant since 1920.

Returning from the war, Feller had his finest season in 1946 when he won 26 games and logged 348 strikeouts. An arm injury in 1947 curtailed Bob’s fastball thereafter, but he continued to be one of the game’s top hurlers until 1955. He was the author of three career no-hitters and 12 one-hit games. Feller was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Here are Bob Feller's major league totals:

W

L

ERA

G

CG

IP

H

ER

BB

SO

266

162

3.25

570

279

3,827

3,271

1,384

1,764

2,581

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