It’s a tad cliché to say “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” but it may never be as apropos as it is the day following Bob Feller’s passing.
Unlike the rest of the amazing pieces that have been penned around the web, I never had the luxury to get to know Bob Feller personally; our relationship never had the chance to blossom beyond an autograph session at the North Royalton Discount Drug Mart. I never had the opportunity to hear his stories in the press box atop Jacobs/Progressive Field. I never had the fortune of watching a 90-year old Feller toss a pitch from the mound at the Indians’ annual Fantasy Camp.
Yet, upon hearing of Feller’s inevitable passing approximately 10 hours ago, I was hit with the irrepresible feeling of grief.
The man saw it all. He rubbed shoulders with Joe DiMaggio and Marylin Monroe. He had been in talks with an upstart politician named Richard Nixon, hoping he would be a representative in the future union. He witnessed three-plus years of a brutal World War.
Yet when all was said and done, Feller did not run off to the bright lights of a bigger city. Not only did he spend his entire career with the Cleveland Indians epitomizing loyalty, Bullet Bob was present for approximately 75 straight opening days in Cleveland and was immensely active in various Tribe-related fundraisers and camps.
When the worst thing one can say about a man is that he was “brutally honest,” it’s safe to say that he was cherished by all who had the fortuitous opportunity to cross his path.
In a day in age where we tend to talk about player “brands” and Q-Scores, Feller cared more about his country, his sport and his team. By now, you’ve all heard the stories: Feller sacrificed four years of his baseball prime to join the Navy, enlisting the day after the Pearl Harbor attacks; he was instrumental in the inception of what is now the players union; he skipped the minor leagues all together and put up numbers that will likely never be broken by a member of the Cleveland Indians. Ever.
The one thing that Bob Feller did not get to see was another Indians championship – something which he had longed for since the day of his retirement. It was recently recommended that the Indians should forgo a ceremonial first pitch during the 2011 opening day. Given that the man who should be throwing it is no longer with us, I defy one to think of a better way to start the next chapter of Cleveland Indians baseball.
Rest in peace, Mr. Feller. You’re already missed.
Note: Here are a few of the better pieces regarding Feller that have been written in the last few days. Feel free to add your takes and links below – Thank you, all.
RIP Bob Feller [Joe Posnanski]
That Attitude’s a Power Stronger Than Death [Anthony Castrovince]
There Was No One Like Rapid Robert Feller [Craig Calcaterra]
Image courtesy of Indians.com