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Sports Then and Now



“Rapid Robert” Feller Was A Hero On And Off The Diamond 5

Posted on December 16, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Bob Feller was the best pitcher of his generation and first major leaguer to enlist following Pearl Harbor.

The baseball world lost an icon and the United States lost a hero with the passing Wednesday night of Baseball Hall of Famer Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller.

It is hard today to imagine a situation where all the top stars in the baseball world would put their careers on hold for multiple years to serve their country, but that is exactly what happened during World War II and Feller was the first in line.

When the United States entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the 23-year-old Bob Feller was without question the best pitcher in baseball.

Feller made his debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1936 and from 1939 through 1941 was nearly unbeatable. He posted a 76-33 record while leading the league in victories and strikeouts all three seasons. His best season during the stretch was in 1940 when he finished second in the American League MVP voting while posting a 27-11 record and also leading the league with a 2.61 ERA and 261 strikeouts.

Yet, after 1941, Feller wouldn’t pitch another inning in the major leagues until late in the 1945 season.

On December 8, 1941, Feller became the first Major League Baseball player to join the war effort as he enlisted in the Navy and volunteered for combat service. Amazingly, it was 69 years to the date of his enlistment that he was placed in hospice care and he passed away one week later.

While in the Navy he reached the rank of Chief Petty Officer and served as a Gun Captain on the USS Alabama. Feller was decorated with five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering Our American Heroes 0

Posted on May 30, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor and missed nearly four full baseball seasons.

Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor and missed nearly four full baseball seasons.

(Editor’s Note: In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, Sports Then and Now is re-running this article that reflects on the personal sacrifices made by some of the great stars of baseball. May we always remember and appreciate the sacrifices that so many have made to keep our country free.)

The names Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller conjure up images of greatness on the baseball diamond, but a lack of overwhelming career statistics often hurts these superstars when the discussion turns to the greatest players in baseball history. What is generally forgotten is that all three missed significant time in the prime of their careers while defending our country.

Read the rest of this entry →

What If? The Lost Years of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller 2

Posted on August 04, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor and missed nearly four full baseball seasons.

Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor and missed nearly four full baseball seasons.

The names Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller conjure up images of greatness on the baseball diamond, but a lack of overwhelming career statistics often hurts these superstars when the discussion turns to the greatest players in baseball history. What is generally forgotten is that all three missed significant time in the prime of their careers while defending our country.

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Tony Oliva: Hall of Fame Worthy
      April 21, 2019 | 5:18 pm
      Tony Oliva

      Cuba is known for producing great baseball talent and there has arguably been no one from the island better than the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

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