CLEVELAND - Bob Feller, 92, the Iowa farm boy whose powerful right arm earned him the nickname "Rapid Robert" and made him one of baseball's greatest pitchers during a Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Indians, died Wednesday night.
Mr. Feller died at 9:15 p.m. of acute leukemia at a hospice, said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' vice president of public relations.
Remarkably fit until late in life, Mr. Feller suffered serious health setbacks in recent months. A form of leukemia was diagnosed in August, and while undergoing chemotherapy, he fainted and his heart briefly stopped. Eventually, he underwent surgery to have a pacemaker implanted.
In November, he was hospitalized with pneumonia. Mr. Feller was recently released into hospice care.
Even as his health deteriorated, Mr. Feller continued doing what he loved most - attending Indians games deep into last season.
"Nobody lives forever, and I've had a blessed life," Mr. Feller said in September. "I'd like to stay on this side of the grass for as long as I can, though. I'd really like to see the Indians win a World Series."
Mr. Feller, in fact, was part of the rotation the last time the Indians won it all, in 1948.
Fiercely proud and patriotic, Mr. Feller was an American original. He won 266 games during 18 seasons - all with the Indians, who brought him up to the majors as a 17-year-old. Mr. Feller's win total remains a Cleveland team record.
"Bob Feller is gone. We cannot be surprised," Indians owner Larry Dolan said in a statement.
"Yet, it seems improbable. Bob has been such an integral part of our fabric, so much more than an ex-ballplayer, so much more than any Cleveland Indians player. He is Cleveland, Ohio."
Mr. Feller was part of a vaunted Indians rotation in the 1940s and '50s with fellow Hall of Famers Bob Lemon and Early Wynn. He finished with 2,581 career strikeouts, led the American League in strikeouts seven times, pitched three no-hitters - including the only one on opening day - and recorded a jaw-dropping 12 one-hitters.
His numbers would no doubt have been even greater had his career not been interrupted by World War II.
The first pitcher to win 20 games before he was 21, Mr. Feller was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1962, his first year of eligibility.
The Indians retired his No. 19 jersey in 1957 and immortalized the greatest player in franchise history with a statue when they opened their downtown stadium in 1994.
In his day, nobody threw harder than Mr. Feller, who sometimes had trouble with his control.
Because speed devices weren't as advanced as they are today, it's impossible to gauge how fast he threw in his prime. There is famous black-and-white film footage of Mr. Feller's fastball being clocked as it races against a motorcycle said to be traveling at 100 m.p.h.
He once said he was clocked at 104 m.p.h.