x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cleveland legend Feller dies aged 92

Decorated pitcher and war hero was part of the vaunted Cleveland Indians rotation of the 1940s and 50s.

Bob Feller was the Cleveland Indians star pitcher in the 1940s and 1950s. He left baseball in the prime of his career to fight for his country.
Bob Feller was the Cleveland Indians star pitcher in the 1940s and 1950s. He left baseball in the prime of his career to fight for his country.

Teenage pitching sensation, Second World War hero, Hall of Famer and American sports treasure - Bob Feller was all of them.

Blessed with a right arm that earned the Iowa farmboy the nickname "Rapid Robert" and made him one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Feller, who left baseball in the prime of his career to fight for his country, died of leukaemia on Wednesday night. He was 92.

Feller won 266 games in 18 seasons, all with the Cleveland Indians. Even as his health deteriorated late in life, he continued doing what he loved - attending Indians games deep into last season.

"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, who broke into the majors at the age of 17, was part of the rotation the last time the Indians won it all - in 1948.

Fiercely proud and patriotic, Feller's life was much like one of his overpowering fastballs. He seemed unstoppable, whether on the mound or in conversation.

"Bob Feller is gone. We cannot be surprised," Larry Dolan, the Indians owner, said in a statement. "Yet, it seems improbable. Bob has been such an integral part of our fabric, so much more than an ex-ballplayer, so much more than any Cleveland Indians player."

Feller was part of a vaunted Indians' rotation in the 1940s and 1950s with fellow Hall of Famers Bob Lemon and Early Wynn.

He finished with 2,581 career strikeouts, led the American League in strikeouts seven times, pitched three no-hitters - including the only one on opening day - and recorded 12 one-hitters.

His win total would have been even greater had his career not been interrupted by the Second World War. Stirred by Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Feller enlisted in the Navy the following day - the first major league player to do so. He served as a gun captain on the USS Alabama, earning several battle commendations and medals.

"More impressive than his vast accomplishments on the field was being part of 'The Greatest Generation'," Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, said. "Bob served our country for nearly four years during the prime of his career. Bob was a great pitcher, but he was first and foremost a great American."

An eight-time All-Star, Feller compiled statistics from 1936 to 1956 that guaranteed his Hall of Fame enshrinement. He led the AL in victories six times and is still the Indians' career leader in shutouts (46), innings pitched (3,827), walks (1,764), complete games (279), wins and strikeouts.

When he returned from military duty in 1946, Feller arguably had his finest season, going 26-15 with a 2.18 ERA and pitching 36 complete games and 10 shutouts.