The Cleveland Indians, along with Major League Baseball, the National Baseball Hall Of Fame and Museum and The USS ALABAMA Battleship Commission, have announced their support of a new award honoring the legacy of Bob Feller -- The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award.
The award will be given each year to one Major League Baseball player and one Baseball Hall of Famer, while The Award Trust also has proposed that the United States Navy support a companion award, to be given to one Navy service member each year.
The award is the first crossover effort connecting the Navy and MLB; finalists for the Feller award will be announced in a ceremony around Memorial Day at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Winners will receive their awards in a ceremony on Veterans Day in Washington, D.C.
"This distinctly unique award will reward those who can measure up to Bob Feller's courage and the strict standards by which he lived his life, every single day," said PETER FERTIG, creator of the award. John Cochrane, an Islip, N.Y., Councilman and a former Captain in the U.S. Navy for over 30 years, assisted in the creation of the award.
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 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.
"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," said BOB DiBIASIO, the Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. "We look forward to working with the Navy to establish an award of which we can all be proud."
Major League Baseball players nominated for the award will be judged on displaying good character, assisting those less fortunate, supporting the United States and its servicemen and women, and how the recipients conduct themselves on the field and off.
Three finalists will be announced near Memorial Day in Cleveland, and the winners will receive a bronze bust of Feller.