This past December, Major League Baseball lost one of the true greats to ever play the game when former Clevelan Indian Bob Feller passed away.
With Opening Day taking place on Thursday, it would be nice to see not only the team he played for celebrate his life but Major League Baseball as well. The Cleveland Indians have many events planned to honor the late Feller, including a video ceremony. His widow, Anne Feller, will throw out the first pitch at the Indians game Friday and the players will all wear No. 19 jerseys during the pregame ceremonies. On the mound, Feller’s number 19 will be displayed along with a patch on the jerseys of all the players throughout the year.
Feller’s career lasted 16 marvelous seasons, all with Cleveland. He would pick up 266 career victories and 2,581 strikeouts. He set, at that time, a Major League record 18 strikeouts in a single game in 1938 against the Detroit Tigers. He still holds the distinction as the only pitcher to record a no-hitter on opening day, when in 1940 the White Sox roster entered the game batting zero for the season and left batting zero. Feller holds the honor for the fastest pitch ever officially recorded when in 1946, he was clocked at 107 mph.
Feller led the league in wins six times. He led the league in strikeouts seven times and earned run average once. He pitched three no-hitters and an astonishing 12 one-hitters. In 1962, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in his first year of eligibility, receiving just over 93 percent of the votes.
With numbers above everyone else it would be easy to get lost in his on-field accomplishments. But what set Feller apart was his dedication to his country. Two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Feller was the first Major League player to sign up for military service. He would serve in the United States Navy as a Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama. Feller earned five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars while fighting in both the European and Pacific Theaters. He told people after the war that he was "no hero, heroes don’t come home."
With this Opening Day too late for the change it would be nice to see Major League Baseball honor one of America’s heroes in a way that is fitting next season by retiring his No. 19 throughout baseball. It would honor not only a man who played the game the way it was meant to be played, but it would allow all Americans to see that a man who was willing to push aside everything else to serve his country above all else, including glory and fame.