Bob Feller, Hall of Fame pitcher, signing copies of Little Blue Book
* 5/16/09 2:00 PM at Barnes & Noble at Eton Collection Mall. Woodmere, OH.
* 5/21/09 7:30 PM at Barnes & Noble at Old Orchard Center. Skokie, IL.
* 5/23/09 1:00 PM at Sam’s Club Main Street. Evanston, IL.
Robert William Andrew “Bob” Feller (born November 3, 1918 in Van Meter, Iowa), nicknamed the “Heater from Van Meter” and “Rapid Robert”, is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, making him the earliest living inductee.
Feller was raised in the small town of Van Meter, Iowa, located west of Des Moines, hence his latter nickname “The Van Meter Heater.” The son of a hard-working Iowa farmer, Bob did many arduous chores that made him physically fit. He used to joke that shoveling manure and baling hay is what strengthened his arms and gave him the capacity to throw as hard as he did. Many attribute his blazing fastball to this. He refers to his farm days in Iowa very fondly, frequently worked on the farm during the off season, and currently collects tractors similar to the ones he used on the farm. When asked how he learned to throw his devastating curve ball, Bob replied, “One day as a nine year old, I was playing catch with my father and I twisted my wrist a bit. The ball broke and I’ve been throwing them ever since.”
Feller was taught to pitch by his father, an Iowa farmer, who built a diamond for his son, and installed a generator and electric lights in his barn for night practice. Although Feller’s childhood dream was to pitch for the University of Notre Dame, he was signed by scout Cy Slapnicka for $1 and an autographed baseball. Upon being made GM 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.
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. As of 2008, this is the only no-hitter to be thrown on Opening Day.
Feller when asked if he threw harder than any other pitcher ever, 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 ordinance 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 claimed he was clocked at 107.9 mph in a demonstration in 1946 at Griffith Stadium.
When Feller retired in 1956, he held the major league record for most walks in a career (1,764), and for most hit batsmen. 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). He lives with his wife, Anne Feller, in Gates Mills, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.
Little Blue Book
Feller distills nine decades of hard-earned wisdom–gleaned from experiences both on and off the diamond–in his new Little Blue Book of Baseball Wisdom, a sequel to his best-selling Little Black Book of Baseball Wisdom. Feller writes tellingly of the stars of his generation, but also shares the essential virtues which made him so successful–life lessons he learned from his father, who, eager to showcase his son’s baseball talent, built a “field of dreams” on their Iowa farm when Feller was still a teen, lessons he learned fighting for his country in WWII, and lessons he learned subsequent to his baseball career. Is he opinionated? You decide. When Negro League baseball star Buck O’Neil failed to get voted into the Hall of Fame, Feller said, “What the hell do these committee members know about baseball? I know more about Aristotelian metaphysics and string theory than they do about baseball.” It’s gems like this that make “the Heater from Van Meter” one of the most respected voices in the game, and make Bob Feller’s Little Blue Book of Baseball Wisdom a book no baseball fan, of any age or any era, will want to be without.