This has been a very rough past couple of weeks for me when it comes to celebrity deaths. We lost Leslie Nielsen, reports are that we lost Blake Edwards and now we have lost Bob Feller. There are a lot of players I respect in baseball history. There are fewer I live in total fear of: Bob Gibson, Goose Gossage, Randy Johnson. But without a doubt, I respect fewer more than Bob Feller.
I don’t have a lot to go on with him. He retired when my mother was 3 years old. I have the legend of him. And I have the interview Bob Costas did with him on MLB Network, which is well worth the hour it takes to watch it. What I have regarding his legacy is his numbers.
He was elected to the Hall-of-Fame first year of eligibility. He received 93.8% of the votes. That’s more than Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson.
8 All-Star Games… Only 22 pitchers have ever done that.
Finished in MVP balloting 7 times, finishing 2nd in 1940, a year he won the Triple Crown of Pitching. He never won a Cy Young Award. (The first one was awarded in 1956, the year he retired.) Had he pitched at the turn of the century, we might be giving out the Bob Feller Award instead of the Cy Young Award.
Top 10 in ERA 7 times, leading in 1940.
Top 10 in wins 10 times, leading 6. Only one person led more times (Warren Spahn with 8). Two others tied Feller: Pete Alexander & Walter Johnson.
Top 10 in winning % 8 times, leading in 1951.
Top 10 in Innings Pitched 9 times, leading 5 times. Only one person led their league more times: Ol’ Pete Alexander. 4 others matched him at 5: Greg Maddux, Walter Johnson, Steve Carlton & Robin Roberts.
Top 10 in Strikeouts 11 times, leading 7 times. He’s only bested by 3: Randy Johnson (9), Nolan Ryan (11) & Walter Johnson (12). And lets’ face it. Bob Feller was not facing the same batters that Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan faced. He is still at #26 on the all-time strikeout list. Out of those 25 ahead of them, 23 played a game after Feller retired. I’m not going to say this definitively, but he retired #3 on the all-time strikeout list.
Top 10 in Complete Games 9 times, leading 3 times and good enough for #52 on the all time list.
Top 10 in Shoutouts 9 times, leading 4 times, good enough for #35 on the all-time list.
And here is the kicker. He missed 4 years fighting in World War II. Those incredible stats would have been more.
So to, arguably, the best pitcher of his generation, the greatest athlete Cleveland has ever witnessed (with respect to Jim Brown, but not LeBron James), a World War II veteran, and the personification of what a legend is in the sport of baseball, we raise our glass and thank you for the years of your service to us.