Bob Feller, as fast and as good as any pitcher who ever lived, never stopped sharing his immortality, right up until his death yesterday, at age 92. With no advance hype, Bob showed up at Shea Stadium on Ralph Kiner Night three years ago. Bob Feller was inducted into the Hall of Fame the year the Mets began playing baseball, in 1962. He had nothing to do with the Mets, ever, but he and Ralph were both 1955 Cleveland Indians, to say nothing of barnstorming buddies and eternal teammates on the All-World All-Stars (home games in Cooperstown, natch). Feller and Kiner materialized on the grass in Flushing to wave to us mere mortals in the 21st century. Bob may have been there to pay tribute to his friend Ralph, but the honor was all ours.
Joe Posnanski’s gem of a remembrance is making the rounds today, and by all means read it, but don’t limit yourself. Frank Deford crafted a marvelous profile of the lion in endless summer in 2005, and it, too, deserves your attention. Feller was 86 then, and the fastest pitcher ever showed no signs of slowing down.
This passage alone is worth the price of admission:
This is important: He never signs in black ink, only in blue. “Blue is the American League color, black the National League,” he explains with definitude, as, indeed, he makes most statements. “Ninety-nine percent of the people don’t know that.” Yes, what exactly accounts for that difference, the black and the blue? Well, Feller explains, when he first came up in the ’30s, the two leagues had different balls. The National League’s ball’s laces were black intertwined with the red, the American’s blue and red. Besides Feller, what man alive remembers that? But that is why, when Rapid Robert autographs, it is invariably in blue ink. (If you have an authentic Feller in black ink, it would be like a philatelist having a misprinted postage stamp.) And this is how he signs his name:
H O F ’62
To that point, Deford noted in the black ink of Sports Illustrated, Rapid Robert Feller had been a Hall of Famer longer than any Hall of Famer alive. He would go on to sign off on his H O F distinction for 48 years — that was on top of the 44 years he’d already lived before being officially certified One for the Ages.
Best wishes, Bob Feller. Best wishes, indeed.