Baseball great and American hero Bob Feller

Contributed by Warren Mowry

I read the sad news today that Bob Feller, the great Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, has been moved to hospice care as a result of leukemia.  He’s 92 and, until last year, was vital and had been a good will ambassador for major league baseball.

Feller was in Greenville in the early 1990s, while the Braves’ AA team called it home.  He pitched, believe it or not, at about 75 years of age, against a bunch of fans drawn from the stands.  Nobody even got a loud foul ball off of him.  I know, because I saw it happen.

It’s ironic that the announcement about Feller comes so soon after the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, since that had such an effect on Feller’s life.  The day after the attack, Feller enlisted in the US Navy, and served four years as a gun pit leader aboard the USS Alabama.  He won numerous battle stars and was discharged in 1945 as a chief petty officer – the only one enshrined in the Hall.

In the three seasons before his enlistment, Feller won a total of 76 games for the Indians.  In the 1946 season, the first full year after his return, he won 26.  Could it be argued that he gave up four years in the prime of his career for his country?  Yet he didn’t wait until the draft board came calling – he offered himself for service the day his country entered the war.

Now, I realize that a lot of baseball players served in World War II.  In fact, Ted Williams gave up five years as a Marine combat pilot in both World War II and in Korea.   But it’s almost poignant to remember Feller’s service in the wake of the comments in the last several days from the from the football playing idiot, Antrel Rolle of the New York Giants.  Rolle, in an amazing display of narcissism, said that booing him after a bad half of football was akin to booing soldiers returning from Afghanistan.  To his credit – or, perhaps the credit of his agent in damage control – he later issued a statement conceding that there was no comparison between the two and, “They (the military) risk their lives and that gives me the opportunity to play a game for a living.”

Feller lived in a different age, when service over self was not only commonplace, but expected.  But we see that same mindset today in the young men and women serving in the military.  For all our concerns about the present, the realization that they will soon be the ones making decisions about the future of our nation should be encouraging to all of us.

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