Hall of Fame pitcher Feller dies at 92

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Feller once said he was clocked at 104 mph.

Even in his later years, Feller could recall pitch-for-pitch duels with great hitters like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. He said his biggest thrill in the game was when he returned from the military to pitch a no-hitter against New York at Yankee Stadium.

“I had been away four years and people were saying I was washed up,” Feller said. “They had a right to say it, too, since few come back after being away so long. But this game proved to me that I was still able to pitch.”

He always credited his father, Bill, with encouraging his baseball ambitions.

“My father kept me busy from dawn to dusk when I was a kid,” Feller said. “When I wasn’t pitching hay, hauling corn or running a tractor, I was heaving a baseball into his mitt behind the barn. I couldn’t repay my debt to him, but I wanted to pass along the thought that if all the parents in the country followed his rule, juvenile delinquency would be cut in half in a year’s time.”

Feller said the greatest hitter he ever faced, without question, was Williams, although Williams had only a .270 average against him.

“I was a little luckier against him than the others,” Feller said. “But he beat me in more games than I care to remember. Joe DiMaggio was the only right-hander who hit me consistently. The fellow who hit me best, though, was Tommy Henrich, the Yankees’ old reliable.

“Funny thing, I’ve run across a lot of former ballplayers who said to me, ‘You know, Bob, I wasn’t a great hitter, but I’ve always had pretty good success against you.’ I must have kept a lot of .250 hitters in the game.”

After retiring from baseball, Feller worked in the insurance business, but he never got completely away from baseball. In 1981, he returned to work for the Indians as a spring training pitching coach and in the team’s public relations office.

As recently as last season, Feller was a fixture in the press box at Progressive Field. Sitting in the media dining area before games or in the same seat during them, he would offer his thoughts on any current event and, of course, give his assessment on how the Indians were playing.

Cleveland’s chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of American recently asked the Indians to turn Feller’s press box seat into a shrine area.

Feller didn’t care for crowds and didn’t particularly enjoy interacting with fans, but he often attended memorabilia shows to sign autographs for a nominal fee. Sometimes gruff, Feller would sign his autograph and listen as fans asked him questions and posed for pictures with an iconic man who meant so much to them.

Feller was critical of contemporary ballplayers. He viewed them as spoiled and felt they didn’t work as hard at their craft as he and his peers. Feller never softened on his stance that Pete Rose, baseball’s hits leader, should remain banned for betting on baseball and he was revolted by the idea that players who cheated by taking steroids could one day join him as a Hall of Famer.

Feller, who lived in Gates Mills, Ohio, is survived by his wife, Anne, and three sons, Steve, Martin and Bruce.

The Indians said details on a public memorial service will be announced in the near future.

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