So much more than a pitcher, Indians Hall of Famer Bob Feller was remembered as a civic treasure on the eve of opening day.
Feller, who died on Dec. 15, was honored during a 75-minute ceremony on Thursday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, whose grounds were blanketed with fresh spring snow.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was one of several speakers to pay tribute to Feller, the iconic Cleveland sports star who spent his entire 18-year career with the Indians.
Kasich recalled being given a baseball by Feller that was autographed by Ted Williams and making a trip a few years ago to Feller’s boyhood farm in Van Meter, Iowa. Feller showed Kasich the barn where he learned to pitch by playing catch with his father.
Kasich said the statue of Feller that stands outside Progressive Field serves as a reminder of his greatness.
”Bob never got old,” Kasich said. ”He may have aged, but he never got old. He’s frozen in time, that young, handsome, athletic, strong man that’s enshrined as long as Cleveland shall exist.”
Indians owner Larry Dolan and manager Manny Acta were joined at the service by current Cleveland players Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Chris Perez, Justin Masterson, former Indians All-Star Sandy Alomar Jr. and former manager Mike Hargrove.
The church’s organ played ”Take Me Out To The Ballgame” as several hundred guests were seated. The national anthem and Navy Hymn were played during the tasteful ceremony, which also included the playing of ”Taps” by a solo trumpeter from the balcony.
The altar was adorned with a photo of Feller and a flag from the USS Alabama, the battleship Feller served on as a chief petty officer during World War II. Feller’s widow, Anne, was presented with the flag during the ceremony.
The Indians also will honor Feller during pregame ceremonies before Friday’s home opener against the Chicago White Sox. In 1940, Feller threw the only opening-day no-hitter in history against the White Sox.