Cleveland had another pitcher ready in case Bob Feller’s first start didn’t go so well.
After all, he was still just 17– a high school student who had just finished his junior year.
Feller’s arm was special–“once in a lifetime,” according to Cy Slapnicka, the scout who’d signed him out of the Iowa countryside. He had pitched in relief and done well but taking the ball to start a game was a big deal.
Denny Galehouse was not needed. Feller struck out 15 Boston Braves that day and a legendary career was officially underway.
Now, a newly discovered photo from that 1936 rookie season–one you probably haven’t seen before–is up for sale. The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is a 6×8-inch image from that much publicized summer, taken not long before Feller would return to Van Meter, Iowa to finish his senior year of high school. It’s one of several hundred historic sports, news and entertainment photos up for auction through Saturday. The King Features archival photo shows Feller warming up on the sidelines with the 1936 date penciled in on the back.
Three weeks after that August 23 debut, Feller topped it, fanning 17 befuddled Philadelphia Athletics to tie Dizzy Dean’s single-game record. By the spring of 1937–after his nationally broadcast high school graduation ceremony–he was on the cover of Time Magazine. By age 21, he’d have the first of his three career no-hitters–still the only one ever thrown on Opening Day.
Feller’s career numbers include seven strikeout titles, 266 wins and 2,581 strikeouts but he missed a significant chunk of his prime years. Feller was the first active athlete to enlist after Pearl Harbor and remained in service through the war’s duration. He missed the 1942, 1943, 1944 and part of the 1945 seasons.