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A living legend

December 10, 2010 - Jim Bartholow
Word this week that Cleveland Indians' Hall of Famer Bob Feller is receiving hospice care stirred memories for this longtime Tribe fan.

Feller has been the face of the team since he burst on the scene in 1938 as a 19-year-old flamethrower out of Iowa. He went on to an unparalleled career with no hitters, one hitters, two hitters, strikeout records, and wins, lots of them. He didn't hesitate to serve in the military, the Marines I think, in the prime of his career during World War II.

For as long as I can remember Feller has worked with the Tribe as a mentor to young pitchers, community spokesman, you name it. I never saw him pitch in person. But he won me over in 1994.

Feller was booked for an autograph session at the Grand Central Mall. The players strike had just begun. It was the first year for Jacobs Field. And things were looking up for the team's future with young stars including Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, Omar Vizquel, and rookie Manny Ramirez.

Our son Jamie, 18 at the time, went to see Feller and ask him to sign our inaugural year Jacobs Field baseball. When we arrived, a handful of people were gathered around Feller, who looked like he could get some strikeouts even though he was in his 60s. He shook our hands, looked us straight in the eye and said, "let's sit down here and talk."

WOW!

He was disgusted with the players union and its strike. He thought the owners could give up a few dollars to settle the dispute. He agreed with us that the Tribe's future was bright. I don't remember how long we talked, not long, but it meant the world to me that a living baseball legend would sit and talk with us.

That's the Bob Feller I remember.

I'll always be a fan of his. If only I could have seen his 100 mph fastball, too.

 
 

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