Five Major League Baseball players, including Cleveland Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, have been chosen as nominees for the inaugural Bob Feller Act of Valor Award and will be recognized before Sunday's Indians game at Progressive Field vs. Detroit.
The nominees are:
Feller's wife, Anne, will be on hand at Progressive Field on Sunday for a pre-game ceremony honoring the nominees. One of the players will be selected by the Bob Feller Act of Valor Board as the winner and receive the award on Veterans Day at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. Former New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra has been chosen as the National Baseball Hall of Fame award winner, while the U.S. Navy's nominees for the award will be announced at a later date.
The award was created jointly earlier this year by the Cleveland Indians, the United States Navy, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, to honor the legacy of Bob Feller. Also supporting the award is the USS ALABAMA Battleship Commission.
"The Indians share strong feelings for Bob's contribution to our organization and this country, and are proud to share in the creation of this award, which focuses on three things Bob held most dear: the Cleveland Indians, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and the United States Navy," said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. "We look forward to honoring these nominees for their display of high character and dedication to servicemen and women."
At the age of 23, Feller enlisted in the Navy immediately after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the start of World War II for the United States. He did so despite possessing a deferment with which he could have been exempt from service.
But he enlisted anyway, becoming one of the first professional athletes to do so and interrupting what was already a phenomenal baseball career. He served aboard the USS ALABAMA (BB-60), seeing combat in the Pacific Theater, in The Battle of the Philippine Sea. He rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer before his discharge in August 1945, at the end of the war.
The Van Meter, Iowa, native – affectionately known as the Heater from Van Meter – missed almost four seasons by enlisting, but still became one of the best pitchers in MLB history. The hard-throwing right-hander, also known as Rapid Robert, struck out 15 batters in his first Major League start -- as a 17-year-old -- and went on to record 266 wins and record six 20-win seasons. His fastball was once clocked at 107.9mph. He led the American League in victories six times and strikeouts seven times.
Along with Jackie Robinson, in 1962 he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, becoming the first players so honored since the inaugural induction class of 1936. He is the only U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer in the Hall of Fame.