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04/06/05 1:44 PM ET

Feller chats with fans online

Hall of Famer answered questions from Cooperstown

One of baseball's living legends and a decorated American hero, Bob Feller participated in an online chat with fans from Cooperstown. Feller's blazing fastball set the standard against which all of his successors have been judged. "Rapid Robert" spent his 18-year career in Cleveland, amassing 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts while leading the league in strikeouts seven times. He missed four years while serving his country during World War II. The author of the only Opening Day no-hitter in Major League history (April 16, 1940, a 1-0 victory over the White Sox at Comiskey Park), Feller was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962

Bob Feller: Thanks for logging on folks, I'm here in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame with all the folks here. The current operation is the best it's ever been, I want to say that, and I've been here since 1939, when I came here to play at Doubleday Field. There's two things you have to see before you die: the Hall of Fame and take a ride on a battleship! Let's get to the questions.

Base_Ball: What was it like being 17 years old and playing in the Major Leagues?

Feller: I was very fortunate in that I had great parents. The GM of the Indians was the same person who signed me as a scout. Steve O'Neill was like a father to me, he was the manager. I had great advice and my parents instilled a self-discipline in me. The first game I pitched for Cleveland was an exhibition game the day before the All-Star Game in 1936, as an amateur against the Cardinals. Leo Durocher was the first batter I faced and he struck out. I struck out eight of nine of the Cardinals. Frank Frisch was the manager and he didn't even go up to the plate. I was throwing pitches behind the batters and all over the place. My first game in the big leagues was in Philadelphia against Connie Mack's A's. I started as a reliever. I hit my first batter, Red Kress, I hit him in the ribs. Buddy Lewis was my first strikeout in the big leagues. In my first start I faced the Browns and struck out 15. I was 17 years old. After the season I went back to Iowa and finished high school.

Scott_Kometz: If you had not served in the war for four years, you would have easily eclipsed the 300 win mark and be near the top of the list in strikeouts. Do you have any regrets about serving in the war?

Feller: No, I don't. During a war like World War II, when we had all those men lose their lives, sports was very insignificant. I have no regrets. The only win I wanted was to win World War II. This country is what it is today because of our victory in that war.

Base_Ball_3: Hi Bob, thanks for sharing your time with us. Do you think Major League Baseball should consider raising the mound?

Feller: No, I think it's OK. The height of the mound isn't that important. I know in Washington the mound was three inches high because Walter Johnson had been a side-armer and it helped his fastball. In Detroit it was 20 inches too high, it seemed. I think we should leave it like it is. Let's not tinker with the rules. I'm against that. The slope of the mound is very important, and at 10 inches it's just right.

Base_Ball: Who was your favorite player to pitch against?

Feller: The Yankees were great to play against. I was friendly with them. Ted Williams and I used to have a real rivalry, a friendly rivalry. I was always careful with Joe DiMaggio, because he stood in close on the plate. I will say that Ralph Kiner is my best friend in baseball. Hank Greenberg was a little afraid of my curveball, but later we became great friends.

Base_Ball_4: Which battleship did you serve on in the war? My grandfather was a seaman on the Alabama.

Feller: I was a shipmate. I was on the Alabama also. I got on the Alabama right after it was commissioned. I was a gun captain on the anti-aircraft battery. I spent 34 months with 2,900 men.

Donald_Wells: Bob, in your mind, what is the most effective pitch in baseball?

Feller: All you need to be a successful pitcher is speed and control. Speed and control. Walter Johnson proved it, Satchel Paige proved it, and I did in my prime.

Scott_Kometz: Which stat are you most proud of -- your 266 career wins, 2,581 strikeouts, or your 12 one-hitters?

Feller: I think the 12 one-hitters. Maybe half a dozen of them, the hit was a broken-bat hit or a close play. The way to throw a no-hitter is to string together nine great innings. I notice no one threw a no-hitter on Opening Day this year, so phew! I still have that record!

Mark_Trigsted: Nice to talk to you Bob. Which pitcher, in your opinion, had the best "stuff" in your era?

Feller: Sandy Koufax was in a class by himself, the best pitcher I ever saw in my lifetime. He and I have a thing, I say he's the left-handed Bob Feller and he calls me the right-handed Sandy Koufax. In my specific era, Allie Reynolds was very good. He was a teammate of mine before he went to the Yankees. Hal Newhouser was very good. Ted Lyons in Chicago, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing in New York, Boo Ferris had a great year in Boston. In 1946, I had my best year and it was my best season. Ferris had a great year that year so it made me think of it. I think it was my best year because I was in great shape from being in the military. I worked out on ship and stayed in shape. We played catch on ship. I came back to Great Lakes and took over for Mickey Cochrane and ran the service team there. All of us in the service were getting in great shape. I was in the best shape of my life in 1946. We played all across the islands in the Pacific during the war. We played in the Fijis, Guam, and so on.

Shirley_Domer: What made the 1948 Indians champs? Was it a genuine team environment/teamwork, a leader like Lou Boudreau, or that great starting pitching staff?

Feller: It was mostly Lou Boudreau. He was afraid of no one. He was a great athlete. He was a dear friend of mine. We were a better club than our 1954 team, because of Boudreau. He was the difference. We had hitters on our team who could string hits together and score runs in bunches. We had unrelenting resolve.

Base_Ball_3: Which batter playing today would you most like to face?

Feller: I don't pay too much attention to it, really. I can't really give an answer. Thanks for the question, however. In the meantime, I will be back here in Cooperstown a few more times this year. I'm looking forward to the inductions on July 31.

Base_Ball: Did you enjoy working as a scout for the Indians?

Feller: The only time I ever scouted was in 1958, when I was broadcasting. Cleveland GM Frank Lane asked me to look at a few players. for him. I recommended a few players and they were signed, but none of the players helped the Indians much.

Base_Ball_4: Mr. Feller, do you believe that the current steroid policy is strict enough? How would you change it?

Feller: No I do not. There were 38 Minor Leaguers banned, and one Major Leaguer. It's not that steroids are helping anyone break records. It's that the steroids will ruin their heart, their brains, their bodies. It's not worth the instant gratification. Steroids will end up killing you. Major League Baseball needs a much stronger policy for the good of the young athletes. Young athletes think they'll live forever, but they won't. If they take steroids, they will regret it.

Scott_Kometz: What pitches did you have in your repertoire and what was your favorite strikout pitch?

Feller: I had no favorite strikeout pitch. I threw a fastball, curve, slider, and change. I did not have a good sinker. I threw my changeup on my curveball. I rarely changed up on a right-handed hitter. I was more overhand to left-handers and sidearm to right-handers. I threw a four-seam fastball and a four-seam slider. A sinkerball is a two-seamer and mine wasn't great.

Scott_Kometz: What were your pitch counts like when you played?

Feller: They didn't do it like we do today. They did count them. I would throw 115-130 pitchers each game. Sometimes I might throw 140 or more, if I was striking out a lot of batters. I remember going some games under 100, when the batters were getting themselves out. I only had a sore arm one time in my career. I slipped on the mound and hurt my elbow on Opening Day in 1937. But it was an injury caused by slipping, it wasn't a real arm injury. My arm was never really sore.

bdocommish: Mr. Feller, I was wondering what your reaction was to the famous Abbot & Costello "Who's On First?" routine. Were you surprised when you found out and did you ever meet them and laugh about the "Feller pitching"?

Feller: I have a copy of that routine. I knew both Abbott and Costello. They were friends of mine. Abbott loved baseball and he would hang around the clubhouse. When we go to the ship reunions I bring the Abbott and Costello bit with me on video and we show it to the folks there. I love the routine and I laugh like I am seeing it for the first time. There's nothing like him. There's nothing funnier than that routine.

Feller: Thank you very much for your questions today. I'm glad you tuned in to this old timer today. I owe everything I am to the game of baseball. No man is an island, and I've had lots of help in my life. I'm 86 years old and I owe everything I have to baseball. I hope that baseball continues to be the pastime of this country. The most difficult game is baseball. You can be small, you don't have to be strong or big to be successful in the game of baseball. Thanks very much.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.