Cooperstown, N.Y. - Fireballer Bob Feller's ceremonial first pitch bounced before it reached home plate.
That’s OK, though. The 91-year-old Hall of Famer still received the only standing ovation at the Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday.
“I think I joined the politicians. They always bounce it,” Feller said in his inimitable, teasing way. “No sport would be in existence without the fans. The fans make the game. They pay their way, pay the salaries.
“I appreciate being invited back. I hope to be here next year, but we’ll take one year at a time.”
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Feller again made the 71/2-hour drive from Ohio with his wife to Doubleday Field, and this time he’s staying a little longer than usual. He’ll be in this picturesque village for five days to film portions of a documentary being made about his life.
Feller was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1962 after a stellar career with the Cleveland Indians.
The old-timers’ Classic began last year on Father’s Day, replacing the Hall of Fame Game which ended after nearly seven decades.
The game drew a crowd of over 7,000, with most of the seats at the old ballpark filled on a sunny day just right for baseball.
While Feller was a big hit, a few former power hitters were back, too.
“I’ve played on Father’s Day almost my whole life,” said Jeff Kent, who holds the major league record for home runs by a second baseman (351). “So I enjoy trying to create an opportunity for other families to come out on Father’s Day. You get dads bringing their sons. If I can be a part of making somebody else’s day, I’m all for it. It’s cool for me.”
Feller and former Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew served as honorary captains and were joined by fellow Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro, Rollie Fingers, and Ozzie Smith, along with 20 other former major league players in a seven-inning game.
For the record, Mark Whiten hit a pair of home runs to lead the Fellers past the Killebrews, 9-0.
Astros catcher Humberto Quintero received seven stitches after getting hit in the head with a bat on Andres Blanco’s follow through during the fourth inning against Texas on Sunday in Houston. Quintero was taken to a hospital for X-rays, but there were no signs of a concussion. … The Detroit Tigers have optioned struggling right-hander Rick Porcello (4-7, 6.14 ERA) to Triple-A Toledo.