"The Heater from Van Meter," as Bob Feller was commonly called, passed away Wednesday night at the age of 92 from acute leukemia.
This man is the definition of a true American. Born in the American heartland of Iowa, he went on to sign with the Cleveland Indians when he was 17 and stayed with the same team for the duration of his career.
But loyalty to his team wasn't his only attribute. As a true American, he signed up for World War II right after Pearl Harbor, making him the first Major League Baseball player to do so.
After serving his country for four years in the Navy, he returned to Cleveland to have a stellar career. Even with his baseball hiatus, he still leads the Indians organization in shutouts, innings pitched, walks, complete games, wins and strikeouts, according to the Associated Press.
While his health deteriorated in recent years, he still managed to attend Cleveland games, hoping for a World Series. The last time the Indians won the World Series, Feller was on the team—in 1948.
"Just a reminder, fans, comin' up is our 'Die-hard Night' here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant."—Major League
I met Bob Feller a few years back at a Charleston, South Carolina RiverDogs game that I attended with my dad and my grandfather, who was also in the Navy during World War II. They were having a special day where people got to attempt to hit against the great Heater. I was a little kid and didn't remember much.
Then, last spring, I found myself traveling across the country in a Jeep. After leaving around five p.m. and driving all night, we found ourselves in Van Meter, Iowa as the sun started to rise on the American fields of gold. We saw the sign for Feller's museum and decided that this would be our first roadside, unplanned stop.
Unfortunately, the museum was closed, but Feller became our unsung hero after that. We kept hearing his name everywhere. I'm sure his name will continue to live on, long after the heat has cooled down and the sun has set.