Baseball Toaster Cub Town
A Short Chat With Bob Feller
2007-01-29 18:40
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."

2007-01-29 20:01:57
1.   Bob Timmermann
Now we know where the entire Riggs Stephenson Fan Club is.

Feller might be the only person who thinks that Riggs Stephenson is a more deserving Hall of Famer than Santo.

2007-01-29 20:49:02
2.   DadofMondy
Well, he and the guy who sponsors Riggs's's BBRef page...
2007-01-29 22:13:17
3.   Scott Long
Feller always has been kind of a red-ass. The pitching version of Ted Williams. Grew up in Van Meter, Iowa where there is still a Bob Feller Museum, if I'm not mistaken.

He was one of the first players I know of who began to cash in on the memorbilia craze.

I love talking to opinionated, cantakerous old f_c_ers, so I'm jealous you got the opportunity. Great insights on the veterans committee inner sanctum. (sanitarium might be a better word)

2007-01-30 07:11:54
4.   Cliff Corcoran
1 Let's hope so. Riggs Stephenson? The guy who played in more than 110 games in just four of 14 seasons? That Riggs Stephenson? Over Ron Santo? Who played in fewer than 150 just four times in 15 years? I've discovered many reasons to dislike Bob Feller over the years. This one is petty, but it goes on the list. As does the fact that Feller seems to be unashamed of the twin ideas of lowering the Hall's standards and feeling that such a thing would be required for Santo to make it.

I'm gonna go punch something now.

2007-01-30 10:35:38
5.   Phil Bencomo
Part of the problem with the Committee, especially with older players like Feller, is not that they aren't willing to vote players in, but that they are voting based on friendship, not merit. Feller gave a talk to attendees after I met with him, and there Feller made clear mention of Stephenson as a "friend," as he did with Lefty O'Doul.

The older players, I think, are just too distanced from the modern game, and even the game of three or four decades ago, to have the proper respect for highly qualified candidates, like Santo, and their careers. At least Santo's got Feller's vote, but the Stephenson quip was just absurd.

It's too bad, but I think the drastic changes in the game have left many old-timers bitter. At least, that's the sentiment Feller expressed. He seems content to reminisce about the 'good old days' and limit himself to little more.

2007-01-30 15:39:38
6.   scareduck
It's sad that Feller thinks the HOFVC would be lowering its standards to admit Santo. Quite the opposite.
2007-01-30 17:01:40
7.   chris in illinois
So, this Jack-ass has a say in who gets into the HOF and Bert Blyleven sits and waits??

Would you guys rather have Feller or the guy who walked 440 LESS guys in 1000 more innings??

The competition that Bert faced was so far superior to Bob it's hardly worth mentioning. For the bulk of that cranky a--hole's career there were two teams who didn't even freakin' try to be even decent not to mention that he didn't pitch against one African-American even once in his career.

Guys like this may be amusing, but they are poisonous at the same time.

2007-01-30 23:24:27
8.   rilkefan
4- re Santo, I see:

Black Ink: Batting - 11 (204) (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 147 (90) (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 40.9 (142) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 88.0 (180) (Likely HOFer > 100)

Most of that seems marginal as it stands - I take it the point Feller's missing that Santo played a gold glove 3b. Probably that's a common mistake. Really some of the above ought to come with a position correction.

2007-01-31 19:34:20
9.   Cliff Corcoran
8 And Cubs correction, which means no postseason and very little chance of MVP-type awards.

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