"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
I've traveled more miles, been to more countries, met more people, signed more autographs, shaken more hands, thrown more baseballs ... and spent more time in combat than any other player in baseball history.
– Bob Feller, quoted by Frank Deford
At the moment I'm reading the piece on Bob Feller by Deford in last week's SI, as well as Bob Feller's Little Black Book of Baseball Wisdom, excerpted at the Baseball Library.
There was nothing about him to suggest that he could, very possibly, throw a round object harder than anybody else who ever strode upon God's green earth...
The boy was also the first athlete to be raised by his father to be a star. Bill Feller was a no-nonsense farmer, working 360 acres by the Raccoon River, but before little Bobby could walk, the father would sit on the davenport, roll a rubber ball to him and then hold up a pillow to catch the infant's return tosses. Bill Feller switched to growing wheat instead of corn because that took less labor, allowing more time for Bobby to play ball. In the winter they threw together on the second floor of the three-story barn, so that the boy could keep that magic appendage of his in shape. Bobby could throw a curve at the age of eight (and it never did any harm to his arm). He was beating whiskered high school teenagers when he was still in grade school. When the boy was 13, prefiguring that fictional Iowa field of dreams, father and son cut down about 20 big oak trees and carved out an actual diamond right there on the farm. Of course, they built a real mound. And a scoreboard and a refreshment stand, too, for the wide-eyed visitors who flocked to the farm and paid to see the boy wonder set men down.
Feller was raised Roman Catholic. One day the parish priest upbraided Bill for allowing his son to play on Sabbath afternoons. Bob still remembers. His father said this to the priest: "I'll never see you again." Thereupon he turned heel, and the Fellers started worshipping on Sunday mornings as Methodists, so that Bob might play on Sunday afternoons without sanctimonious censure from the clergy.
Here's Feller on the cover of Time Magazine in 1937.
The SI article is available online only to subscribers, but it's worth a read if you can get your hands on a copy: Deford brings his subject – and another era – alive.
Around the Horn
* Standing up for Indians (and Braves and Warriors, too) is religion writer Kenneth Woodward in an essay criticizing NCAA Puritanism on Native American mascots.
* At the new NY Sun blog, Ira Stoll comments on the Michael Moore crowd that has adopted Cindy Sheehan as the face of the anti-war movement: Ms. Sheehan's "coalition" includes a lot of people who think the people who killed her son were justified.