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RIP Bob Feller

Moose Milligan

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I was driving my new Buick Century across the Mississippi River, across the Iowa-Illinois state line, when my world — everyone’s world — changed forever.

It was Dec. 7, 1941. I was driving to my meeting with my Cleveland Indians bosses to hash out my 1942 contract, and out it came on the radio: the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

The last thing on my mind right then was playing baseball. I immediately decided to enlist in the United States Navy. I didn’t have to — I was 23 and strong-bodied, you bet, but with my father terminally ill back in Van Meter, Iowa, I was exempt from military service.

It didn’t matter to me — I wanted to join the fight against Hitler and the Japanese. We were losing that war and most young men of my generation wanted to help push them back. People today don’t understand, but that’s the way we felt in those days. We wanted to join the fighting. So on Dec. 9, I gave up the chance to earn $100,000 with the Indians and became the first professional athlete to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor.

It was one of the greatest experiences in my life. You can talk about teamwork on a baseball team, but I’ll tell you, it takes teamwork when you have 2,900 men stationed on the U.S.S. Alabama in the South Pacific. I was a chief petty officer. I helped give exercises and ran the baseball team and recreation when we were in port. But I was also a gun captain — I was firing a 40-millimeter quad at eight rounds per second.

NY Times article

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This is cool. Thanks for sharing.

Immediately the thing that comes to mind is that it was my experience as a pitcher that I always threw harder when there was a batter in the batters box. In practice and in warm-ups, I could max out my effort but I could never have as much velocity as an in game situation.

IMO, it's natural...there's an adrenaline rush there. Feller was hitting 98.6 with that contraption there. Can't help but wonder what he'd be throwing with a real hitter there.

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I shared this in the other Feller thread, but I can pinpoint him as an example of why I love the game so much. When I was 10 he was planning an appearance in my hometown as a sports guest in the annual parade. Before he came, my grandfather would tell me stories about him so I could get an understanding of how good he was. He was my grandfather's favorite pitcher--so I knew he had to be something special. Then I got to meet him after the parade. He signed my baseball and told me that I could make it to the majors. Unfortunately, he was wrong, I washed out after high school :P

That experience was an extension of the time I spent with my grandfather which I remember so fondly. I hope one day I can pass along similar stories of baseball to my grandchildren.

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