The three winners of the inaugural Bob Feller Act of Valor Award were announced today. Peter Fertig of New York man created the award in tribute to the former Cleveland Indians pitcher from Van Meter, who struck out 17 batters at the age of 17, and was a decorated World War Two anti-aircraft gunner.
Fertig consulted with baseball executives, the U.S. Navy and Feller’s widow. “I wanted to find a way to honor Bob Feller, a true American patriot and a hero,” Fertig says. He says it’s important to remember what Feller did on and off the baseball diamond. “Bob was a major league baseball player, rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, and he was a baseball Hall of Famer. My job is to keep his memory alive of what he did. If we forget shame on us,” Fertig explains.
Fertig is the president of the award’s foundation which will choose the winners each year. The Act of Valor Award goes to a Hall of Famer, an active baseball player and a Naval officer — each representing a part of what Feller was. “Bob Feller was a phenom at the age of 23, he had already pitched six years in the major leagues and on December seventh, 1941 he never hesitated, he never wavered, he joined the hardest hit part of our military at that time which was the United States Navy,” Fertig says.
The inaugural winners of the award are Yankee’s legend Yogi Berra, Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander, and Chief Petty Officer Garth Sinclair. Berra is now 88, and is cited for his career with the New York Yankees and also for participating in the D-Day invasion in World War Two.