In addition to being a three-time All-Star for an Indians club that won six American League Central Division titles and two AL Pennants over his 13-year Major League pitching career, one of D-backs pitching coach Charles Nagy’s indelible memories of his time in Cleveland centered around fellow right-hander (and one of the game’s all-time greats) Bob Feller.
The Baseball Hall of Famer, who passed away last December at the age of 92, broke into the league in 1936 as a 17-year-old fireballer from Van Meter, Iowa, pitching his way to 266 career wins, 2,581 strikeouts, a 3.25 ERA and eight All-Star appearances in an era that boasted the likes of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. And he also missed four years of his pitching prime to volunteer to serve in the Navy during World War II.
Still, Feller never strayed far from the game after his retirement in 1956.
“In my rookie year in 1989, I first saw Bob in Spring Training,” Nagy began, “and he was out there shagging fly balls and talking baseball with all the guys. From that year on, it was ‘Hey, Bob’s in camp this week.’ All the guys would sit and chat with him. We had a really good relationship, and I always enjoyed talking to him.
“He would tell us about whom he faced and the outcomes, but he would also talk about old-school pitching – pitching inside with a purpose, going up and down in the zone and attacking the hitters. It was the little things, too. He talked about pitchers needing to field their position. Every time I would see him, he would always remind me of that. It was always about teaching pitchers right, making sure guys knew to cover first and to throw strikes.”
Nagy was certainly receptive to Rapid Robert’s advice, ending his career with 129 wins (10th on Cleveland’s all-time list) in 313 games before being inducted into the Indians’ Hall of Fame in 2007 – exactly 50 years after Feller’s similar honor.
“I talked to Bob a lot over the years,” Nagy said. “He liked to talk, and he’d just sit down and talk baseball through and through. He was always around in Spring Training and would come down to the locker room. He was always easy to talk to and, of course, we had the common interest of baseball. His wife went to the University of Connecticut where I went to school. We would talk pitching, but you would just listen to him. He was Bob Feller, a Hall of Famer, and he always had great stories and great advice. He was just a very nice man, and he was always nice to me.”