Bob Feller, a Hall of Fame hurler whose fire-throwing right arm earned him the nicknames "Bullet Bob" and "Rapid Robert and who was one of the few remaining links to the Cleveland Indians' last World Series title, has died from complications of pneumonia. He was 92.
An Iowa farmboy who became a pitching sensation at 17, Feller won 266 games over an 18 year career, all spent with the Indians. He remains the franchise's all-time wins leader, and recorded 2,581 career strikeouts, led the American League in strikeouts seven times, tossed three no-hitters and recorded 12 one-hitters. He became the youngest pitcher to win 20 games before turning 21 and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 in his first year of eligibility.
Feller's stellar numbers put him in the conversation as one of the best of all time, though his statistics were undoubtedly affected by his decision to join the Navy the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Stirred by a sense of patriotism, he became the first major league player to enlist and eventually became a gun captain on the USS Alabama during World War II, where he earned several battle commendations and medals.
Upon returning from the war in 1946, he possibly had his best season, compiling a 26-15 record with a 2.18 ERA and tossing a mind-blowing 36 complete games and tallying 10 shutouts. He won a World Series in 1948 on a staff that also included future Hall of Famers Bob Lemon and Early Wynn.
A Cleveland institution, Feller continued to attend games deep into the 2010 season even as his health began to fade.
"Nobody lives forever and I've had a blessed life," he said in a September interview. "I'd like to stay on this side of the grass for as along as I can, though. I'd really like to see the Indians win a World Series."
Indians owner Larry Dolan commented on the pitcher's passing in a statement.
"Bob Feller is gone. We cannot be surprised. Yet, it seems improbable. Bob has been such an integral part of our fabric, so much more than an ex-ballplayer, so much more than any Clevland Indians player. He is Cleveland, Ohio," it read.