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Biofile Bob Feller Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Hall of Fame Cleveland Indians Pitcher. 1918-2010.

DOB: November 13, 1918 In: Van Meter, Iowa

Childhood Heroes: Babe Ruth. Babe was kind of a gruff, happy-go-lucky guy. Everybody loved him. He lived life to the fullest. Touched all the bases in life, just like he did on the field. Walter Johnson. Eddie Rickenbacher. I have one of his cars, like my dad’s. It’s in my museum in Iowa, which my son Steve designed. He’s an architect in Winter Park, FL.

Nicknames: Rapid Robert – got that from Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Jim Doyle. Bullet Bob. Inky – because I was incorporated after World War II. The Greatest Righthander of All-Time.

Hobbies/Interests: Collecting baseball books. Three-cushion billiards. Gardening. Farming. Traveling. Collecting tractors as a hobby. With my cousin. We’ve got 37 Catepillar Crawlers…all from the early ’30s, late ’20s. Pick ‘em up all over North America. Got one coming in from San Francisco.

Childhood Dream: Always dreamed of being a Major League ballplayer. I never had any idea I wouldn’t be a Major Leaguer. My dad gave me all the time I needed and the best equipment I needed. He didn’t play ball, he was an Iowa farmer. But he believed sports were a positive activity.

Early Baseball Memory: Playing catch with my father in the winter time, with the lights strung up on the trees. We played catch in the livestock yard. Sometimes with snow on the ground, with the snow piled high on the side. The balls’d get wet and we’d put them in the oven to dry ‘em up. I remember my first Major League game (age 17). I came in with one out and the bases loaded against the Yankees in 1936. And my first pitch was a groundball double play.

Favorite Movies: Pride of the Yankees. Earthquake. Field of Dreams. The Natural – the first five minutes of that movie were like the beginning of my life on the farm in Iowa.

Pre-Game Feeling: I tried to have the game all planned out. Think of how I’d pitch and talk to the catcher. I’d get to the ballpark good and early. Have everything composed. Remember who the good hitters were and who I’d have to be aware of…who was hot, who was cold. A .220 hitter on a hot streak is more dangerous than a .400 hitter on a cold streak.

Greatest Sports Moment(s): I suppose it would be the Opening Day no-hitter (the only in MLB history). My dad, mother and sister were all there in 1940. And, of course, when I came back in late August 1945 (after serving in the Navy for three years). I joined the Navy two days after Pearl Harbor. In that game, I beat Hal Newhouser of the Tigers. In Cleveland…a night game. (Bob spent 44 months in the Navy – during the peak of his career. He earned eight Battle Stars in the gunnery department, fighting combat on the U.S.S. Alabama.)

Most Painful Moment: I would have liked to have won a World Series game. Got beat 1-0 by Johnny Sain. I had a two-hitter, he had a four-hitter. They got their run after a controversial play in the 8th inning. It was not much of a disappointment, we won the World Series anyway (in six games over the Boston Braves in 1948). I didn’t have many disappointments.

Toughest Competitors: It’s only a game. I prepared. Sometimes guys just had a better day. I was not the type of player to kick over a garbage can or kick over a food spread in the locker room after a game. I think if there weren’t so many people watching, I don’t think they’d do it. It’s a childish temper tantrum done for effect. It doesn’t show much but the wrong things.

Favorite Athletes To Watch: The Indians – of course. Ken Griffey Jr. – very fine player. Sandy Koufax – a left-handed Bob Feller. Tom Seaver. Bob Gibson. Nolan Ryan – he had a lot of great games, but not great consistency. Barry Bonds. Walter Johnson – I think he was the fastest pitcher in history. And he didn’t have a curveball. He threw sidearm and was almost impossible to hit from the right side. He had 36 complete games in 1916. I had 36 complete games in 1946. Otto Graham. Lou Groza. Bob Cousy – a great friend of mine. NCAA football.

Worst Injury: I never got injured. I slipped on the mound once in Philly ( in 1947). Sprained my left knee, pulled the muscle in my right shoulder. But I came back soon after and still won 20 games that year.

Most Treasured Possession: The ball that Babe Ruth gave me in 1928 when my dad took me to one of his exhibition games. Now it’s at my museum.

People Most Admired: People that are scientists…in medicine, in space programs. I admire people that are good leaders…in the military and in politics. The ones I admire…they tell it like it is.

Career Accomplishments: One world championship; three no-hitters; eight All-Star Game appearances; seven-time League strikeout leader; 46 career shutouts; 266 career wins and 2,581 career strikeouts; Hall of Fame induction in 1962.

About Mark Malinowski

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