The lack of money forced the museum’s closure Jan. 3. It opened in 1995 to honor the Hall of Fame pitcher who was born near the central Iowa city, but has faltered since his death on Dec. 15, 2010.
Museum board member Bob DiBiasio told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/1bINA95 ) that Feller “was the engine that powered that museum.” Since his death, museum membership has fallen and the organization hasn’t been able to attract the Hall of Fame-caliber stars who in turn attracted patrons.
“The museum itself just can’t move forward,” DiBiasio said. “And that’s nobody’s fault. But it just cannot continue to move forward. It cannot be an entity that loses money.”
Feller won 266 games in 18 seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He had 2,581 career strikeouts, pitched three no-hitters and recorded 12 one-hitters. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.
Museum board President Brandon Sawalich said Hall of Famers would agree to visit the museum at reduced costs as long as Feller would do the same at their events.
“Hall of Famers work and support each other at events,” Sawalich said. “And now that Mr. Feller is no longer around to support other events, you’re paying market price (to bring in guests), and we can’t afford to do that.”
The museum will reopen in the spring, but it’s unclear how long it can operate because the organization has less than $10,000 in savings, Sawalich said.
Museum and Van Meter city officials are discussing the possibility of sharing the building, but that would leave less space for baseball memorabilia. Some items could be moved to a museum in Cleveland, but there are no plans to move the entire museum to Cleveland.
“Will there be a place that honors Bob Feller’s legacy in Van Meter, Iowa, with artifacts and memorabilia and things of that nature?” DiBiasio said. “That’s the goal that we want to have, and that’s the goal for Van Meter.”