Bob Feller was one of the true greats of the game of baseball. He started off in humble beginnings throwing a baseball at the side of his barn in Van Meter, Iowa. From that farm upbringing he came to have one of the best arms ever in baseball. He was clocked at over 100 mph several times with one unofficial reading of 107.6. I think the last one may be inflated, but he was fast. He had many nicknames, but ‘Rapid Robert’ may be the one that has persevered more than any other over the years. He was signed at 17 for one dollar and an autographed baseball. He never played a day in the minors, and played all eighteen of his Major League seasons with the Indians. He pitched an opening day no-hitter against the White Sox in 1940. I had him inscribe that feat on the ball in the above picture. He is still the only player ever to throw a no-hitter on opening day. That kind of sets the bar high for the rest of the season. That was one of three no-hitters that Bob threw in his career. Continue reading →
I always saw the sign for the Bob Feller museum as we drove through Des Moines on I-80 going west. When I finally moved to Iowa I finally got my chance to visit the museum. The museum is set in the small Iowa town of Van Meter. It is located on the corner of Mill Street and Elm Street. Bob Feller meant so much to this small town that they gathered the funds necessary to build this museum. It started off small, but has grown up in no time. From when I first went in 2004 to the pictures they have online today you can really see the difference. This museum showcases what one man can mean to a town. There is no real allotted parking so you just find a spot on the street around the museum. Follow the steps up into the museum and you are on your way. The admission is only $5 so go and see it if you are in the area.
The museum mural
The famous bat the Babe Ruth held
The museum inside is not very huge, but they pack it full of memorabilia. The museum has the main hall with a north and south wing on each side. One of the highlights for me was to see the bat that Babe Ruth was leaning on when the now famous photo of him was taken in Yankee Stadium. Before I visited Bob’s museum I never knew that the bat in the picture was actually a Feller model. Babe needed something to lean on when he came out, so he grabbed Bob’s bat as he exited the visitor’s dugout. A picture of the display is shown to the left. Before I visited the actual Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this was the closest I had been to anything touched by the Babe. The bat is showcased at the museum, but also makes its way around the country in a travelling exhibit. I was lucky enough to be there on a day it was as well. The rest of the museum is filled with glass cases full of items from Bob’s career in baseball along with other items from his life. A good example is shown to the right. A jersey of Bob’s and some baseball memoribilia is displayed in one case while his Navy Uniform and his wartime acheivements are shown in the case next to it. As a baseball fan I was amazed at some of the items in the museum. Bob Feller had a great relationship with Ted Williams, and some of the other Red Sox players of that day. A lot of their memoribilia can be found in the museum. They have done a great job of collecting items from Bob along with other great players of his time.
Baseball and History collide insdie the museum
Feller signing the White Sox ball for me in 2005
In the short time I was in Iowa I made a few trips to the museum. I was able to meet Vida Blue, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bert Blyleven, and Bob himself during some of the autograph signing days they had. I was also able to get balls autographed by Harmon Killebrew, Bobby Doerr, and Buck O’Neill through the museum. I became a member of the museum so my frequent visits would be free. The photo at the top of the post was taken during a signing day when Bob was present. In front of the museum was the car that took Bob to his first major league game. A signing day is a great day to meet some heroes of the game, but it is too crowded to visit the museum. The picture to the left shows Bob signing a ball for me. Most people just asked for his autograph, but I asked to inscribe the date of his Opening Day no hitter against the White Sox. (I am a Sox fan, and yes I like punishment.) He not only put all that on it he inscribed the score, and wrote “Opening Day No Hitter” on the ball. That baseball is one that will always be at the forefront of my collection. I wish we had something like this close to here so that I could experience this again. They have a great lineup of guests this year, and from the looks of the web site for the museum it will only get better. If you are in the area give the museum a try. It is worth the price of admission.
Bob Feller is one of those players that shows why the book The Greatest Generation was right. He pitched his entire 18 year career for the Cleveland Indians. He amassed 266 wins and 2,581 strikeouts in his career. Those numbers could have been better, but Bob joined the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked and missed four full seasons. During his time in battle he was decorated with five campaign ribbons, and eight battle stars. When he returned from the war the next season he won 26 games and struck out 348 batters. Another amazing fact about Robert was that during his career he pitched three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters. This man was dominant. Bob’s fastball was legendary. In his day we did not have the technology that we have today, but his fastball was clocked at 98 mph at the plate. This was late in his career when he had lost some velocity already. Today’s radar readings are taken as the ball leaves the pitchers hand. He must have been nasty to face.
His #19 was retired by the Indians in 1957. He was elected in his first year of eligibility to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 with 93.75% of the vote.
Bob has been immortalized in his home town of Van Meter, Iowa with a museum in his honor. Bob makes appearances at the museum many times a year bringing former greats with him. I have been to the museum many times, and it is definitely a step into the past.