Sign petition for Bob Feller to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom
“If the game proved anything it proved that we must win this war so that we may be able to continue to play and to see baseball games, instead of learning how to do the goose step.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 8, 1942
Preparing to pitch at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Bob Feller buttoned up his uniform. For the first time during his professional career, Feller donned a uniform that was not a Cleveland issued garment. As a member of the US Navy, Feller and a group of servicemen prepared to take on the American League All-Stars to help raise money for the war effort.
The United States All-Service team, coached by Mickey Cochrane, featured Feller, John Rigney (Navy-White Sox), John Grodzicki (Army-Cardinals), Mickey Harris (Army-Red Sox), Fred Hutchinson (Navy-Tigers), Frank Pytlak (Navy-Red Sox), Ken Silvestri (Army-Yankees), John Sturm and Morrie Arnovich (Army-Giants).
Opposing the service team was the American League All-Stars. Future Hall of Famers Hal Newhouser, Lou Boudreau, Joe Gordon, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams highlighted a star-studded roster.
The Plain Dealer reported that the event had a World Series type of atmosphere. Beginning with the 6:30 p.m. batting practice, the event featured the Fort Hayes band, Marine Corps drill, Fort Custer tank destroyer battalion and artillery outfit, parade of tanks, Great Lakes Naval Training Station band, V formation and a flag raising. The baseball game did not even start until 9 p.m.
The ballpark was dolled up in red, white and blue bunting and flags of the United Nations were draped from the upper deck. Photos of Douglas MacArthur were affixed to the walls at the base of the stands. A crowd of 62,094 turned out to see Feller and the Servicemen drop a 5-0 decision to the All-Stars. Feller pitched into the second inning before leaving, down 3-0. Fans understood that perhaps Feller didn’t have his best stuff due to his Navy duties taking precedent of his time. Famed Plain Dealer writer, Gordon Cobbledick wrote it this way:
“American League pitching was too sharp for batting eyes dulled by months of devotion to another task. American League bats were too potent for pitching arms grown rusty in the service of a greater cause than baseball. This was the story of the United States Service-American League All-Star game at the stadium last night before one of the greatest crowds of Cleveland sports history.”
Interestingly enough, even during an unofficial game such as this one, fans at Cleveland Municipal Stadium booed the Yankees’ star Joe DiMiaggio. He was quoted saying, “I can’t understand it. I don’t know of anything I’ve done to deserve it.”
Underlying the spectacle was the benefit of the game. For every ticket sold, $1 in War Stamps was included. The event raised between $130,000 and $150,000 for the war effort.
Bob Feller used his celebrity in the best way he could during the early part of the war. This game is just one reason why we believe Bob Feller deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Please help and sign the petition.
–Team curator/historian Jeremy Feador