Year Inducted: 1962 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 150/160)
Every Hall of Famer takes immense pride in being a member of the Hall of Fame. Every single one recognizes the hard work they put into it, and respects the game to understand what the title means. Still, there are some Hall of Famers who do more with that title than others. Some will do fan events more frequently, like the Hall of Fame Classic, almost every year. The one who probably did the most, almost until his dying day, was Bob Feller.
One cannot mention the name of Bob Feller without first discussing what he means to this country. In December of 1941, right after news broke about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Feller was the first MLB player to enlist in the military, and served from 1942-1945 which were his age 23-26 seasons. Other than Ted Williams, probably no player missed as much to service as Feller. Even with the missed time, Feller had a Hall of Fame career.
Feller pitched for 18 seasons, all for the Cleveland Indians. In that time, Feller threw over 3800 innings, winning 266 games (with 162 losses) with an ERA of 3.25. Feller was one of the first pitchers in the modern era after Walter Johnson to post high strikeout totals, five times surpassing 200 strikeouts in a season including a record 348 in 1946 and led the league seven times in punchouts. In fact, when Feller retired he had struck out more batters than anyone except for Johnson and Cy Young, both of whom had at least 2000 more innings pitched than he had.
Feller did have a fairly long decline phase where, while still very good, he had lost his fastball velocity that made him one of the greatest. Starting in 1948, Feller began suffering from arm fatigue which led to other, nagging injuries through the remainder of his career. Feller also hurt his back in 1947 by falling off a wet mound in Philadelphia. Feller threw a lot of innings at a young age (he broke into the bigs at the age of 17), and would do barnstorming tours often at the close of seasons, all of which put a lot of strain on his arm in a short time. From 1936-1947, which would be until his age-28 season, Feller had an ERA of 2.92 and a FIP of 3.17. From 1948-1956, his ERA was 3.70 and his FIP was 3.89; both totals much higher than his earlier numbers. Once Feller lost his velocity, his control (which wasn’t ever great) suffered along with it. Feller compensated some by adding a sinker and using his curve more, but his earlier dominance just wasn’t there anymore.
Long decline or not, no player wore the title of being a Hall of Famer with more pride than Feller. Feller was the longest living Hall of Famer of all-time, constantly being a presence in Cooperstown at fan events and inductions. Feller, in his healthy prime, was the best pitcher on the planet, and his dedication to this country makes him a true hero.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/7/16:
#87- A legendary Cubs second baseman.
#86- Ty Cobb wasn’t the only great Tiger outfielder from the early 1900’s. This guy was there, too.