Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, one of the greatest hurlers in major league history, passed away on December 15, 2010. He was 92.
Having missed nearly four full years in his prime to military service, Feller still managed to win 266 major league games, striking out 2,581. His fastball was reportedly clocked as high as 107 mph, inspiring the nicknames Rapid Robert, and The Heater from Van Meter (Iowa).
Throughout the 1938 baseball season, 18-year-old Seattle Rainiers phenom Fred Hutchinson was compared to the 19-year-old Feller. Feller was already an established major league star by 1938, winning 17 games for the Cleveland Indians that season.
On Oct. 7, 1938, the two teenagers faced each other in a highly anticipated post-season exhibition game at Sick’s Seattle Stadium. It wasn’t just Seattle fans that were excited at the prospect of this match up, as a number of Rainiers players delayed the return to their off-season California homes solely to play in this game. The anticipated pitcher’s duel turned out to be anything but, with Hutch giving up six runs and Feller five in a 9-8 Hutch squad win in 10 innings.
Feller and Hutch became fast friends, and remained so until Hutch’s untimely death in 1964. In memory of his fellow pitcher and friend, Feller lent heartfelt support over the years to Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. This included a 1999 visit to Seattle, and a tour of Safeco Field as it was still under construction. As he left the site, Fred Hutch personnel thanked Feller profusely for his visit and efforts, to which he simply replied: “anything for Freddie”.
ABOUT THE PHOTOS
(Top of the Page): Bob Feller and David Eskenazi at not-yet-completed Safeco Field in March 1999. Feller is holding a ballpark seat end stanchion which depicts Fred Hutchinson in bas relief. The stanchions adorn the ends of all rows of seats at Safeco Field, a fitting tribute to one of Seattle’s favorite sons.
(Middle of the Page): Autographed publicity photo of the two teens prior to their exhibition game at Sick’s Stadium in 1938, taken by Roger Dudley studios in Seattle. This photo was given by Hutch to David Eskenazi’s grandfather, Albert Alhadeff, in 1938. It was later signed by other Seattle Rainers as they visited Alhadeff’s business, Eclipse Shoe Repair on 7th and Union in downtown Seattle.