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A Short Chat With Bob Feller
by Phil Bencomo
I had the pleasure of attending the 10th annual Opportunity Through Baseball Charity Dinner and Auction on Sunday night. The event is run by Robin Renner, Varsity baseball coach at Neuqua Valley High School, to fund his week-long summer camp for underprivileged youth in East Aurora. The camp is a spin-off of the nationwide Opportunity Through Baseball summer camp in Denver.
As I happen to know Robin, I was able to talk with one of the evening's guest speakers, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller.
Feller, far from feeble in mind or body at 88-years-old, is quite an interesting fellow. Unwavering in his opinions on everything from baseball to politics (he later went on an anti-Iraq tirade during his talk), Feller exemplifies an old-time ballplayer, or even simply an old man: full of memory, pride, and, at times, disdain for what the game has become.
Pitch counts, five-man rotations, and a bullpen with designated relievers have all become standard practices since he left the game, Feller said. Lost today is the art of the complete game. "Back then, we paced ourselves," he said. "Half of the kids today don't even know what that means, to save up a bit extra for the 8th or 9th inning and the toughest hitters."
When I asked him about the Veterans Committee, of which he is a member, Feller said, "We're trying to get some veterans in," in contrast to the perception that the Committee has no interest in voting in new members.
When I brought up Ron Santo's name, Feller retorted, "I think Riggs Stephenson has a much better chance of getting in than Ron Santo. Ron Santo is borderline, and he may make it. I predicted it and hope he does. ... I have put his name on my list ... I hope he can make it, and I hope Riggs Stephenson makes it, as well as Lefty O'Doul and two or three others."
Feller continued: "We're going to find out in a few days who makes it, and I think we're going to lower the standards, and when we lower the standards, I think [Ron] will have a better chance."