All-Time Indians: Bob Feller

Name: Robert William Andrew Feller Position: Starting Pitcher            
Nick Name: Rapid Robert       Number: 19                
Tribe Time: 1936-1941, 1945-1956   DOB: 11/03/1918              
Accolades: Hall of Fame (1962), Retired #19, 8 Time All-Star (1938-41, 1946-48, 1950), Top 5 MVP (1939-41, 1951)
Best Season (1946) 26 15 0.634 2.18 48 42 36 10 4 371 277 101 90 11 153 348 1.16 8.4 0.199
Career 266 162 0.621 3.25 570 484 279 44 21 3,827.0 3,271 1,557 1,384 224 1,764 2,581 1.32 6.1 0.222


Widely considered to be the best pitcher in Indians history, Bob Feller is definitely the most accomplished. Feller is the only Cleveland Indian to be honored with a statue outside of Progressive Field and has been enshrined in both the Indians and the Major League Baseball Halls of Fame.  Rapid Robert is especially important to Indians history due to a combination of circumstances. First, he never played for any other professional baseball team. He didn't even play for a minor league team as he made his debut on the Tribe as a 17 year old in 1936. Feller was also part of the last Indians World Series winning team and played in two during his career. He cemented his place in Indians history by remaining with the team, helping young pitchers and entertaining fans until his death in 2010. 

During the middle of Feller's career, World War II broke out and rather than waiting to be drafted, Feller enlisted in the U.S. Navy right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Because of this, Feller missed a large part of the prime of his career including all of 1942-1944 and most of 1945. While on an aircraft carrier he was clocked throwing a ball at 98.6 MPH, one of the fastest pitchers of his time. Before this he raced a full speed motorcycle with a pitch and won with a pitch that was estimated at 104 MPH.

Feller was the best pitcher of his time, and although the Cy Young Award had yet to be invented, this can be seen by his statistics through those years. Feller lead the American League in wins from 1939 throgh 1941, 1946 through 1947 and in 1951, ERA in 1941, innings pitched in 1939 through 1941 and 1946 through 1947, WHIP in 1940 and 1947 and strike outs in every full year he pitched between 1938 and 1948. He made the All-Star team every full season from 1938 to 1950 with the exception of 1949, getting the start in 1941 and 1946. His rankings in the MVP voting also show this dominance as he received votes for MVP in every full season from 1939 to 1948 and in 1951.

The best rotation Feller was a part of was between 1950-1951 lead by Hall of Famers Early Wynn and Bob Lemon and brought up in the end by Mike Garcia. Over these two seasons these four pitchers accounted for 147 wins, averaging more than 18 a season for every pitcher in the entire rotation. This group started forming when Lemon became a full time starter in 1948 when both Feller and Lemon were huge parts of that World Series championship along with fellow 20 game winner Gene Bearden. Garcia and Wynn both came to the Tribe in 1949 and finished creating what has to be considered the greatest Indians starting rotation in team history. 

Bob Feller holds the Indians career records in many stats, including three of the ones considered most important (wins, innings pitched and strike outs). His 1946 campaign was probably the best season by an Indians pitcher ever. In that year, only his second after his return from the Navy, he set the current Indians records for innings pitched and strike outs. His 2.18 ERA that season was the lowest of his career and he won more than 20 games for the 5th time in his career. Only Mel Harder has played more seasons in a Cleveland Indians uniform and he didn't take three years off for World War II. Bob Feller, the greatest Indian.

Bob Feller

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since its inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians. Follow on twitter @BRBBlog.