The Van Meter Heater

As a Cleveland fan, Bob Feller passing away is an especially big deal. He said some controversial things later in his life, but he seemed to be everywhere, still attending (and pitching at) Fantasy Camp well into his 80s. Everybody seems to have their own Bob Feller story; just last week when the story came out that Feller was in hospice care, my grandma told me hers. When she lived in Sidney, Ohio, Feller came to the grand opening of a sporting goods store. “He was such a gentleman,” she said. “I have never forgotten how nice he was.” Which might explain why, growing up, I remember going to my grandparents’ house and seeing an autographed picture of Feller in the living room.

Also, Bob Feller, “the Van Meter Heater,” had one of the great nicknames in baseball history along with “Smoky Joe” Wood and Lou “Biscuit Pants” Gehrig. Now it’s all A-Rod and V-Mart and “Doc” Halladay. Which is lazy and sometimes nonsensical.

More Feller stories:

  • Joe Posnanski is a really good writer who happens to be from Cleveland. Among his stories: As a kid at an autograph signing, Feller asked him who the best pitcher of all time was. Overthinking, he answered, “Sandy Koufax.” There’s an even better story at the end of the article.
  • Feller could have easily delayed his entry into the military during World War II, but he enlisted in the Navy and pushed to be put into combat duty because, “We were losing big in the Pacific.” How many Hall of Fame-caliber athletes in their prime would do that now?
  • Rob Neyer wonders what Feller’s career stats would have looked like if he hadn’t missed almost four prime seasons in the service, then hurt his knee when he came back.
  • Feller saw it all in his 92 years.
  • Apparently that autographed picture of Bob Feller at my grandparents’ house is not a limited-edition item. Nothing signed by Feller is, but who cares? He made money from all those autographs, but he at least acted like he cared about the fans he met.
  • Feller was the historical face of the Indians franchise.
  • Stephen Strasburg’s signing bonus was around $10 million. Feller’s was $1. Not $1 million. One dollar. He became one of the highest-paid players in the game later in his career.
  • You know the movie “Field of Dreams”? It was based on a book that was published in 1982, but the whole setting of a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield could’ve been (at least subconsciously) taken from Feller’s childhood. His dad built him one. And, like in the movie, everybody thought he was crazy.
  • He went 5-3 in his rookie season of 1936. Then he went back to Iowa and graduated from high school. The commencement ceremony was broadcast live on national radio. First of all, that’s a completely crazy idea, but it really happened. Secondly, this makes ESPN seem a little less cutting-edge, doesn’t it?

Random thoughts:

  • Quick aside on the Feller autograph idea: Apparently getting an autograph from Bob Feller had about 10 percent of the awkwardness of getting autographs from current minor-leaguers. Because I’ve seen a lot of them, and while it’s nice that players sign things, there is little to no conversation going on most of the time. But that’s what happens when signatures turn into (potentially) big business and not necessarily mementos. And that’s too bad for both players and fans, really.
  • The Padres signed SS Gregorio Petit and 3B/OF Jesus Guzman to minor-league deals. Apparently Petit is good with the glove, so who knows what could happen if he has a good Spring Training. Also in that article: Dontrelle Willis signed a minor-league contract with the Reds.
  • San Diego closer Heath Bell caught typhoid fever on a vacation. He’s fine now, so I think it’s OK to make the joke that the vacation was not by covered wagon on the Oregon Trail. He went to Hawaii and ate something that made him sick.
  • You’ll be happy to know that Allan Wertheimer also took a vacation to Hawaii, but didn’t catch typhoid fever. Which, from a purely mathematical standpoint, is amazing considering the sheer volume of food he probably ate.
  • The Padres hired former Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy last year and now he’s going to be the manager of Short-A Eugene. Yesterday the NCAA came down pretty hard on ASU for some rules violations that happened while Murphy was there. He says he never violated rules intentionally. I’d give him some benefit of the doubt; NCAA rules are about as convoluted and illogical as anything in sports. And let’s not get into the enforcement of those rules.
  • I played a year of college baseball. For a work-study job, a bunch of the players (myself included) worked the concession stand at basketball games. Should I be worried about  being stripped of my .125 career batting average in NCAA competition?
  • The Braves’ Top 10 prospect list is posted on Baseball America.
  • Peter Gammons says Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies was just Cliff being Cliff. And he means that in a good way. I think.
  • With the Rangers and Angels missing out on the big-name free agents, some people think the A’s could surprise this year. They have the pitching if they can stay healthy. But they can’t really score enough, can they?
  • Some minor-league teams down south are shuffling around.
  • Apparently there’s an indoor cornhole tournament coming up between TinCaps and Mad Ants front office people. We’d bring this guy in, but we already have Bill Lehn, so we’re set.

Musical guest… the Foo Fighters!

Take care!


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