CLEVELAND - Bob Feller, 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, has died. He was 92.
Feller died at 9:15 last night of acute leukemia at a hospice, said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' vice president of public relations.
Remarkably fit until late in life, Feller had suffered serious health setbacks in recent months. He was diagnosed with a form of leukemia 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 and Feller was recently released into hospice care.
Even as his health deteriorated, Feller continued doing what he loved most - attending Indians games deep into last season.
"Nobody lives forever and I've had a blessed life," 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."
Feller, in fact, was part of the rotation the last time the Indians won it all - in 1948.
Fiercely proud and patriotic, 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. Feller's win total remains a Cleveland team record, one that seems almost untouchable in today's free-agent era.
Feller 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.
The first pitcher to win 20 games before he was 21, Feller was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1962, his first year of eligibility.
His numbers would have been even greater had his career not been interrupted by World War II. Stirred by Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Feller enlisted in the Navy the following day - the first major league player to do so. He served as a gun captain on the USS Alabama, earning several battle commendations and medals.