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Posted at 5:51 AM ET, 12/16/2010

Bob Feller: 'I just reared back and let them go'

By Cindy Boren

Bob Feller, the Hall of Fame pitcher who died Wednesday night at the age of 92, once said of his pitching style: "I just reared back and let them go."

It wasn't easy to quantify Feller's talent or velocity in an era before speed guns. Feller, who died of complications from leukemia, won 266 games over 18 years, pitched three no-hitters (one on Opening Day) and was a member of the Greatest Generation, enlisting after Pearl Harbor. (With no regrets, he estimated that military service cost him about 60 victories. "We were getting the hell kicked out of us," he said of enlisting. "I thought we needed some help.")

Feller, signed by the Indians when he was 16, was a Nolan Ryan from the Iowa cornfields. Ted Williams said he was "the fastest and best pitcher I ever saw during my career. . . . He had the best fastball and curve I've ever seen.''

In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes writes that Indians baseball will never be the same. Whether in spring training or at regular-season games, Feller was a presence any time the Indians were on the field.

Bob Feller was the only occupant on the Indians' spring training grounds. He was in right field, in full uniform, going through his pitching delivery. He'd come to a set position, whirl and throw the ball into the right field wall.
Feller was practicing his pickoff move to second. Why not? He was only in his 70s.

Feller was part of the rotation the last time the Indians won the World Series in 1948 and managed to attend games late into the Indians' season this year.

"Nobody lives forever and I've had a blessed life," Feller said in September. "I'd like to stay on this side of the grass for as long as I can, though. I'd really like to see the Indians win a World Series."

FELLER ON STRASBURG AND HYPE

When Stephen Strasburg was drawing a bit of attention, Feller quickly reminded people in his blunt, prickly fashion that he was a pretty big deal himself back in the day. Drafted at 16, he had to leave the Indians to return to Iowa for high school graduation. "They broadcast my graduation from high school coast to coast, live on NBC," Feller said.

And of Strasburg: "Call me when he wins his 100th game."

MORE

Gallery: Bob Feller's life in photos

By Cindy Boren  | December 16, 2010; 5:51 AM ET
Categories:  MLB  
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Next: Bob Feller on Stephen Strasburg's style and hype

Comments

If Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived, claims that Feller was the best pitcher he ever saw in his long career, that's good enough for me. I wonder if Ted modified his opinion for pitchers who emerged after he retired: Koufax, Gibson, Ryan, Carlton, Seaver, etc.

Posted by: randysbailin | December 16, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Bob Feller was a phenom before the word was fashionable, just imagine you're 16 and the pro's come calling keep in mind this is the late 1930's. The players of today have it laid out for them million dollar contracts, endorsments,agents who do everything for them including making sure they don't hurt themselves. Bob Feller was "The Man" he asked no quater and he gave none, God grant him eternal rest.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 16, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

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