Filed under: MLB, Topps | Tags: baseball cards, Bob Feller, Bob Feller baseball card, Cleveland Indians, Indians, MLB, Topps
By Stan Carlberg | Guest contributor
The recent health scare for baseball legend Bob Feller got me thinking about how much “Rapid Robert” has meant to the collecting masses, the hobby as a whole.
But before we delve into his hobby achievements, we need to go back to where his legendary career first began. Three years before Ted Williams was “The Kid,” the 17-year-old Feller took the baseball world by storm in 1936 with his blazing 100-plus mph fastball. Still attending high school in Van Meter, Iowa, Feller was Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and Jim Palmer rolled into one. During his standout rookie season, he matched his age in strikeouts when he fanned 17 batters in one game. Two years later, he topped his own mark by whiffing 18 Detroit Tigers on Oct. 2, 1938.
Despite missing pretty much four prime seasons to World War II, Feller’s fabled baseball resume includes:
— The only Opening Day no-hitter (1940)
— Three career no-hitters (12 one-hitters)
— 266 victories, 2,500+ career strikeouts
— Election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962
The only thing rivaling Feller’s diamond achievements and service to his country is his active run in the memorabilia industry. For more than 70 years, Feller has been baseball’s most prolific signer and is the only active player to appear in classic Goudey and Topps sets, spanning from the 1930s to the 1950s.
And five decades since after retirement, he’s still considered the Cleveland Indians’ greatest player of all time, as the statue of Feller’s high-kick, windmill windup outside of Progressive Field attests.
As one of baseball’s rising stars in the late-30s, Feller’s image first appeared on Wheaties boxes in 1937. That same year, his first card was issued in the O-Pee-Chee (No. 120) card set. However, two of Feller’s most popular trading cards appeared in the classic 1938 Goudey “Big Heads” set, which also featured other baseball legends like Joe DiMaggio and Jimmie Foxx.
Over the years, Feller has appeared in many other historical card sets, including: 1948 Leaf SP, 1949 Bowman, 1952 Topps and 1954 Wilson Franks.
Most recently, autographed cards of Feller can be found in the 2010 Topps Tribute subset. In other words, you can still walk into a store and find a Feller card today.
In all, it’s been an astounding 70-year span of classic cardboard that no other player can touch. As one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors, Feller’s autograph is now so plentiful that acquiring his John Hancock can be relatively cheap compared to his contemporaries like DiMaggio, Williams, Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg. That way, any baseball fan from the last handful of generations, and future generations, can easily acquire and enjoy a historical piece of the Van Meter Heater.
Feller wouldn’t want it any other way.
Alongside baseball itself, the one constant in the memorabilia game for the passed 70 years has been the dimpled-chin boy from Van Meter. He’s been there for us all along. It’s time we remember his longtime generosity, and like his blazing fastball, we wish him a speedy recovery.
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