Editor reminisces about hitting off Bob Feller

Thu, Dec 16
Bob FellerCourtesy of Bruce HammelSports Editor Alex Kimball hits off 75-year-old Bob Feller in 1994. Kimball schooled Feller that day.

I took Bob Feller deep.

Of course, he was 75 at the time.

It was 1994, and Feller -- on one of his annual tours to promote the game -- was pitching to a few members of the local media before a Class A San Jose Giants game. I was a 30-year-old assistant sports editor at the San Jose Mercury News, and had agreed to stand in for columnist Bud Geracie, who was sidelined by shoulder surgery.

I was scared stiff.

After all, this was Bob Feller, "Rapid Robert," the Hall of Famer who pitched three no-hitters and threw 100 mph. So what if that was 50 years ago? I hadn't played competitive baseball since Babe Ruth League as a teenager. How was I going to even make contact?

By luck of the draw, I got to bat second. But that only made me more nervous, because the TV reporter who batted first didn't come close to hitting any of his 10 pitches (we were supposed to get only five swings).

I stepped into the batter's box wearing spikes, shorts and a Giants jersey and cap the team had given me. I took a couple of quick practice swings and got into my stance. The Giants' catcher -- bless him, I wish I could remember his name -- said, "Watch out, this one looks like he can hit." That made the knot in my stomach only slightly smaller.

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