Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bob Feller (1918-2010)

The news broke last night that the baseball world lost Bob Feller.  It wasn’t a total shock, having just read a week or so back that Mr. Feller had been placed in hospice care.

You can have a look at his career numbers, via Baseball Research.  Oh mercy, they’re nice, but of course what we know – and all SHOULD know – is that he lost ostensibly FOUR years of his career to World War II.  He enlisted in the Navy on December 8, 1941, and returned in time to appear in nine games in 1945.  If you start looking at his stats in 1939, and bookend them with 1946 and 1947 after his return from the war (excluding those nine starts in 1945), Feller won 122 games – averaging 24 wins per year.  Now take those 24 wins and tack them onto the “what if” years of 1942-1945.

Ninety-six more wins.  I won’t even venture into projecting strikeouts and so on.

Feller never complained.  Never considered himself to be a hero.  He just felt that winning World War II was the most important win of them all.

Yet those numbers seem diminished, and often keep Feller out of the “greatest ever” conversation.  Of course that’s foolish but that is the nature of those things.

A member of a lost generation?  Yes.  Outspoken?  Definitely.  Feisty?  You bet ya!  Even a little arrogant?  Sure.  It’s all part of what “Rapid Robert” was.

For a more definitive obituary, I turn you to Joe Posnanski, who wrote a stunning farewell.

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