Remembering Bob Feller, a class act

Bob Feller, one of the true greats of Major League baseball, died Wednesday of leukemia at age 92.

Despite missing 44 months at the height of his career while serving in the military during World War II, Feller posted a lifetime record of 266-162 record, struck out 2,581 batters, including 348 in the 1946 season, and threw three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters.

He also led Cleveland to its last World Series victory, in 1948.

So what did Feller get as a signing bonus for putting his name on a contract with the Indians in July 1936, when he was only 16 years old? Just $1 and an autographed baseball.

In the 1970s Feller told Baseball Digest that his original contract didn’t even stipulate a salary, just that he’d get $500 a month if he stayed on the roster for the rest of the season.

Feller, who began pitching for Cleveland the summer before his senior year of high school and promptly set an American League record that season by striking out 17 Philadelphia Athletics batters in a game, did say that he later received a $10,000 bonus from the Indians.

The modern-day equipment that enables scouts to accurate gauge a pitcher’s throwing speed didn’t exist in Feller’s time, but it’s generally accepted that “Rapid Robert’s” fastball reached at least 100 miles per hour.

More importantly, he was a class act. In an interview late in life the Iowa native was asked: “If you could relive any one of the many great moments in your life, which one would it be?”

Feller didn’t hesitate.

“Playing catch with my dad between the red barn and the house.”

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