A new military award is being created that will recognize an outstanding current U.S. service member while also honoring the memory of a famous Iowa athlete. It’ll be called the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. John Wallach, deputy director of the U.S. Navy office for community outreach, says the award will serve as a tribute to the Van Meter native.
“You in Iowa know him and are proud of him as a Major League Baseball player and a Hall of Fame inductee,” Wallach says. “Those of us who wear the Navy uniform are proud of him for his service in the U.S. Navy. During World War Two, he gave up money and fame to enlist in the U.S. Navy and became the first professional athlete to do so.”
Feller played with the Cleveland Indians from 1936 to 1941 and again from 1945 to 1956. His baseball days were interrupted by World War II, when he served aboard a battleship, the USS Alabama.
“We’re very proud to be a part of this award which is going to be presented on Veterans Day,” Wallach says. “The award will honor one individual from each of those three aspects of Mr. Feller’s life, a major league baseball player, a member of the Hall of Fame and a member of the U.S. Navy, and in this case, it will be a chief petty officer, which is the rank that Bob Feller attained.”
Feller died in December of 2010 at age 92. His abilities from the pitcher’s mound were legendary, earning him nicknames like, “The Heater from Van Meter,” “Bullet Bob,” and “Rapid Robert.”
Wallach says once he set aside his baseball uniform and enlisted, Feller put his focus on service to his country, and excelled in his accomplishments in the military uniform, too. Nominations for the award will be taken through June 17th.
“The nominations are coming from commanding officers of fleet units around the world,” Wallach says. “They will nominate a chief petty officer from their activity who best represents the values that Bob Feller displayed both as a professional athlete and a member of the Navy.”
The award will be given each year to one Major League Baseball player and one Baseball Hall of Famer, in addition to a sailor. It’s the first-ever crossover effort connecting the Navy and the MLB. The honor will be announced at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., on November 11th, Veterans Day.
Learn more at: www.bobfellermuseum.org
By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City