Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pitching Now-from the Other Side of the Grass

Say it ain't so.

Tell me that the powerful 90 year old man I saw trot to the pitching mound at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY on Fathers Day, 2009 hasn't left the stadium for good.

Tell me that he will come back next year, as he had promised the fans, to pitch again.  Tell me he will delight another cohort of young boys and girls outside of Doubleday Field, waiting for him to come and sign their baseballs, even though the era he pitched in was, to them, just a historical footnote.

No, please don't tell me that Bob Feller, a young 92, lost his battle with leukemia yesterday.

When that crowd, and I, saw him trot to the mound, that day in 2009, I knew I was blessed to be there.  I felt goosebumps.  Chilled, I'm sure I forgot to breathe as thousands in the stadium, gave him a standing ovation.

Why did we all feel that way, about the man from Van Meter, Iowa, the farmer's son?

Have you ever seen the move Field of Dreams?  I visited, back in 1995, the site where the movie was filmed, a farm in Northeast Iowa.

Bob Feller's father built the original Field of Dreams, there on his farm near Van Meter, Iowa.  Not the movie field, which is over a hundred miles away, but a real Field of Dreams, for his son.  And eventually he built bleachers and charged admission, for his son was so good as a young teen that people would pay the princely sum of 25 cents to watch him pitch.

Rapid Robert spent his entire career with one team, the Cleveland Indians.  If World War II had not interrupted his career....well, a lot of men of that era had their careers interrupted.  But not too many of them volunteered for service the day after Pearl Harbor, and immediately asked to be placed into combat.  He served on the USS Alabama.  As it was, he pitched for 18 seasons.  And not one game featured the type of pitching you find today, with a pitcher rarely seeing a full game.  No, this was industrial strength pitching.

I can imagine what Bob Feller, farm strong, would have thought about pitch counting.
Three no hitters, three more than the entire NY Mets during their 48 year history.

It's a cliche, but they just don't make them like that anymore.  Goodbye, Rapid Robert.   I was so lucky to be able to see you pitch.  I will always remember you.

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