Baseball Legend Bob Feller from the Cleveland Indians Visits MHS in 1966
To help motivate students to lead fulfilling and productive lives, MHS often invites successful individuals of good character and reputation to share their experiences and insights. How were MHS students inspired by a Cleveland Indians baseball legend in 1966?
In the 1960s, students were especially interested in baseball since one of their own, Nelson “Nellie King” ’45, actually pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1954 through 1957. In an effort to introduce students to an athlete who embodied the values the school sought to instill and appealed to the students’ interests, Bob Feller was invited to speak at a school assembly on May 27, 1966.
A retired right-handed pitcher from the Cleveland Indians known for his blazing fastball, down to-earth manner, and service to his country during World War II, Feller retired from baseball after the 1956 season. Following his formal address at the MHS assembly, Feller signed autographs for students and staff. Senior baseball team co-captain Mike Weller ’66 remembers Feller attending practice and pitching with the team for a few minutes. Before leaving, Feller also autographed a photograph of himself during his playing days with the words, “Best Always to the boys of Milton Hershey School from Bob Feller, 1966.”
Feller, a Hall of Fame pitcher who played his entire 18-year career with the Indians, was an eight-time All Star who led the American League in wins in six seasons and strikeouts in seven seasons. He also was the first pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season before the age of 21. A teenage phenomenon, Feller never played in the minor leagues and made his major league debut in 1936 at the age of 17—a year younger than some of the students he spoke to at MHS.
Feller also had a few things in common with the students he was visiting. Feller grew up on a farm in Van Meter, Iowa where he learned to be responsible, work hard, and love his country. A true patriot, Feller enlisted in the U.S. Navy for four years during the prime of his career following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was the first American professional athlete to enlist, eventually earning six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars while serving in both the Pacific and North Atlantic.
Though the game of baseball has changed since the time of Bob Feller, we can’t help but imagine how excited he would be to see the Cleveland Indians play in the first game of the 2016 World Series on Oct. 25, 2016—the team hasn’t won the series since 1948. Playing against the Chicago Cubs who are looking for their first title since 1908, MHS students continue to be inspired by these athletes’ hard work and dedication.
The game was held at Progressive Field in Cleveland where a nine-foot statue of Bob Feller is located. Play ball!
Milt Memories History Blog
MHS Department of School History works hard to preserve the Hersheys’ values and students’ cherished memories through articles, photos, interviews and artifacts. Follow along with our monthly blog series focused entirely on the fascinating school history and inspiring work of our founders.