By Ronnie Tellalian
A statue stands in a courtyard out in front of Gate C at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It depicts a hero that remained loyal to a much maligned city for 70 years. I don’t call him a hero because he was a Hall of Fame baseball player or because he was the greatest and most beloved Indians of all-time. I call him a hero because he was one. In 1941 Bob Feller was driving back from Iowa after visiting his terminally ill father. He was on his way to sign a new contract with the Cleveland Indians, when a news report came over the radio announcing the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Two days later, Feller became the first American professional athlete to enlist to fight in World War II. The military was willing to give him an exemption from combat due to his fathers ailing health, but Feller would not accept it.
“I told them I wanted to get into combat; wanted to do something besides standing around handing out balls and bats and making ball fields out of coral reefs,” Feller said.