Future Hall of Fame pitcher, Van Meter, Iowa-born right-hander Robert William Andrew "Bob" Feller, who passed away yesterday, made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians on July 19, 1936 against the Washington Senators in Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. A then-17-year-old Feller walked two, Sens' shortstop Red Kress and starter Monte Weaver, in a scoreless inning of relief work that began what would end up being an 18-year MLB career interrupted only by four years of distinguished service in the Navy in World War II. Feller retired from the game in 1956. In 1962, Feller, who's thought of as one of the harderst throwers to play the game, reportedly (or anecdotedly at least) reaching 100mph-plus before they regularly measured such things, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in recognition of a career in which he was (266-162) in 570 games played and 484 games started with a 162-game average of 17 wins, 114 BB (4.1 BB/9) and 167 K's (6.1 K/9) per season.
When it was announced that another young phenom with a triple-digit fastball, Stephen Strasburg's second major league start was lined up to take place in Cleveland, Ohio's Progressive Field this past June, a 91-year-old Feller, who'd spoken to D.C. reporters previously about the Nats' future ace, was asked by reporters if he was excited to see the rookie right-hander, and Feller dryly joked with MLB.com writer Anthony Castrovince, as quoted in an article entitled, "Feller eyeing Strasburg's blossoming career", asking, "'Is he excited to see me? No,' Feller joked. '[But] I'll be there.'"
In an article from May, before Strasburg made his debut entitled, "Feller on Strasburg", MASNSports.com's Phil Wood quoted the Hall of Famer, whose own high school graduation (which took place after he'd debuted) was broadcast across the country on the radio, saying that the coverage Strasburg's received may have been a bit overdone, "'I've seen the young man pitch on television, and he's quite impressive. Great fastball, with good movement, too,' he said. 'But I think the expectations are far too high at this point.'"
Even after watching Strasburg beat the Indians for his second career win, giving up just 2 hits and 1 ER, while striking out 8 and issuing 5 walks, Feller remained unimpressed, telling reporters, including AOL/Fanhouse writer Pat McManamon, who quoted Feller in an article entitled, "Feller Not Overly Impressed by Strasburg", to, "'Call me when he wins his first 100.'"
Defiant til the end, Feller passed away last night, succumbing to pneumonia months after being diagnosed with leukemia. "Rapid Robert" as he came to be known, told MASNSports.com's Phil Wood back in May, that he didn't see himself as a hero for having volunteered to fight in WWII and didn't regret the time he spent away from the game doing so, explaining that we was simply doing his service to his country, "'I did what I had to do,' he said. 'I was no hero, I made it back and resumed my career. The real heroes weren't able to do that.'"