Last week, the Cleveland Indians submitted a petition asking President Obama to award Bob Feller the Presidental Medal of Freedom for his military service during World War II. Everyone -- or Indians fans, at the very least -- know about Feller's stellar career on the field, but many may have forgotten the time he spent serving his country.
The whitehouse.gov petition, originally submitted on February 3, has just three weeks left to amass 90,555 votes (as of this writing) in order to warrant an official response from the White House.
Just days after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and just days after visiting his terminally ill father, Bob Feller volunteered for service in the United States Navy. Many would volunteer over the course of the war, but Feller had the distinction of being the first professional athlete to do so.
Feller originally spent his time in the military as a physical fitness instructor and pitching in military-hosted games after he failed an eye test to become a fighter pilot. When Feller did make it aboard a ship, it was the USS Alabama, which spent much of 1943 in the British Isles and later moved to the Pacific Theater. Feller was discharged as a Chief Petty Officer in August of 1945 and awarded with six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. All told, he missed three years of his professional baseball career (1942-1944) while in the military, although he was careful to keep his arm sharp whenever he could while in service.
On the field, Feller finished his career as one of the greatest pitchers in Indians history, amassing 62.6 total fWAR over his 18-year career (all in Cleveland). He was also instrumental in the Indians' last World Series win in 1948 on a staff that included Bob Lemon, Satchel Paige, and knuckleballer Gene Bearden.
Feller's legacy continues with the Bob Feller Act of Valor award, a yearly collaboration between Major League Baseball and the United States Navy that honors players who show the same values and dedication that Feller showed by enlisting in the Navy 70 years ago.