My first opportunity to see MLB Spring Training occurred today. My favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds, was playing my fourth favorite team, the Cleveland Indians. (Twins are #2 and Rockies are #3). The Reds and Indians share the Goodyear Ballpark in the Phoenix-based Cactus League. (See the short panorama video of the Ballpark below.)
I was expecting to see the starters play 3-5 innings then see a cast of optimistic newcomers. That's what happened...for the most part. What I did not expect was to see two classic ballplayers: George Foster and Bob Feller.
Foster managed left field for the Big Red Machine for eleven seasons, playing in three World Series' (1972, 1975 and 1976). He was the NL MVP in 1977, batting .320 with 52 home runs and 124 RBI. He was one of my favorite players. A fun guy, very involved in the Cincinnati community who was nice enough to sign a photo and allow me to pose for a photo with him. His numbers will not get him into the Hall of Fame, but he was critical to the success of the Big Red Machine.
Bob Feller is a different story. He is a true Hall of Famer -- the class of 1962 -- appearing on 150 of 160 ballots. He played for 18 seasons for the Tribe. He spent 3.5 years in his prime serving in the military during WWII. He appeared in only one World Series, in 1948 -- starting and losing two games. The Tribe still won the Series in six games over the Boston Braves. BTW it was the last Series the Indians won, though they played and lost in Series' in 1954, 1995 and 1997.
While signing autographs, he was very polite. He engaged in entertaining small talk. He is now 91 years old and still gives a firm handshake. He threw out the game's opening pitch. He will not be with us much longer. He seems to have led a full life. As much as we admire his baseball prowess, we honor equally for his service to the nation during the 1940s.