Friday, December 17, 2010

A Greatest Generation Icon Gone

With the death of Bob Feller at 92, another reminder of America's glory days fades away.

Not only was he one of the best pitchers in baseball history, Feller might just as well have been from another species compared to today's multi-million-dollar, steroid-taking superstars who bounce from one team to another in search of ever more money and fame.

Feller spent his entire career in Cleveland (pace LeBron), interrupted only by World War II, and lived in a suburb there for the rest of his life.

Are there any major league ball players in Iraq or Afghanistan? Two days after Pearl Harbor, Feller enlisted in the Navy, eventually serving as a gunnery officer on an aircraft carrier in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Four years away from baseball in his prime cost him an estimated 100 victories, but only last year he said, "I'm not a hero. Heroes seldom return from wars. Survivors return from wars. But I'm very proud of my military career. And I don't miss those 100 wins whatsoever."

As a Bronx kid, I admired Feller grudgingly for what he did to our New York Yankees, but his passing recalls one of our own All-Star pitchers, Vernon "Lefty" Gomez. Feller's obits quote Gomez about batting against him (no DH then) and telling an umpire about a third strike, "That last one sounded a little low."

Nobody matched Feller, but Lefty should be remembered not only for his pitching but his offbeat humor. On a foggy day, he struck a match before coming to bat against him. "What's the idea?" asked the umpire. "Do you think it will help you see Feller's fast one?" "No," Gomez answered. "I just want to make sure he can see me!"

In Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, Gomez's plaque reads: "Noted for his wit and his fastball, as he was fast with a quip and a pitch."

If Feller's passing brings back memories of Gomez, there's no doubt that he wouldn't have minded sharing a little of the spotlight with him. Modesty was an admirable trait for the Greatest Generation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And the boss said, "We need to beef up the SOQ. We need us all to look 10 feet tall. After all, if we don't blow our own horns, who's gonna?"

Well, maybe if we get really good at what we do....?