Robert William Andrew "Bob" Feller (born November 3, 1918 in Van Meter, Iowa), nicknamed the "Heater from Van Meter" and "Rapid Robert", is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Feller played for the Cleveland Indians, his only team, for 18 years, being one of "The Big Four" Indians pitching rotation in the 1950s, along with Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia. He ended his career with 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts, and led the American League in strikeouts seven times and bases on balls eight times. He pitched three no-hit games and shares the major league record with 12 one-hitters. Feller was the first pitcher to win 20 or more games before the age of 21. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. When he was 17 years of age, he struck out 17 batters; he and Kerry Wood are the only two players ever to strike out their age (Wood struck out 20 on May 6, 1998).
Feller was taught to pitch by his father, an Iowa farmer, who built a diamond for his son, and installed a generator and electric lights in his barn for night practice. Although Feller's childhood dream was to pitch for the University of Notre Dame, he was signed by scout Cy Slapnicka for $1 and an autographed baseball. Upon being made GM of the Indians, Slapnicka transferred Feller's contract from Fargo-Moorhead to New Orleans to the majors without the pitcher so much as visiting either farm club, in clear violation of baseball rules. After a three-month investigation, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis made it clear that he did not believe what Slapnicka or Cleveland president Alva Bradley said, but awarded Feller to the Indians anyway, partly due to the testimony of Feller and his father, who wanted Bob to play for Cleveland.
On Opening Day in the 1940 season, Feller pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox, with the help of a diving play on the final out by second baseman, Ray Mack. As of 2008, this is the only no-hitter to be thrown on Opening Day.
Feller when asked if he threw harder than any other pitcher ever, responded that at the end of his career players who had batted against him and also against Nolan Ryan had said Feller threw harder than Ryan. If that was the case, Feller threw over 102 mph. Although there is footage of Feller being clocked by army ordinance equipment (used to measure artillery shell velocity) and hitting 98.6. However, this took place in the later years of his career, and the machine used, like most of the machines at the time, measured the speed of the ball as it crossed the plate whereas now the speed is measured as it leaves the pitcher's hand.Feller once mentioned that he was clocked at 104 mph at Lincoln Park in Chicago. He also claimed he was clocked at 107.9 mph in a demonstration in 1946 at Griffith Stadium.
When Feller retired in 1956, he held the major league record for most walks in a career (1,764), and for most hit batsmen. He still holds the 20th century record for most walks in a season (208 in 1938).
In 1943, Feller married Virginia Winther (1916-1981), daughter of a Wisconsin industrialist. They had three sons, Steve (b. 1945), Martin (b. 1947), and Bruce (b.1950). He lives with his wife, Anne Feller, in Gates Mills, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.