Indians launch campaign to award Feller Presidential Medal of Freedom

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians have launched a campaign aimed at having the late Bob Feller awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award in the United States, given "for especially meritorious contribution to 1) the security or national interests of the United States, or 2) world peace, or 3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

The petition, filed on WhiteHouse.gov today, needs 100,000 signatures within 30 days to require a response from the White House. President Barack Obama bestowed the award upon the late Yogi Berra and Willie Mays last year; Berra and Mays joined other baseball players including Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMiaggio, Stan Musial, Buck O’Neil, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson and others who have received the award.

"In addition to the incredible and lasting impact Bob made on the Indians organization, we think his meritorious contribution to the security and national interests of the United States makes him worthy of consideration for the Presidential Medal of Freedom," said Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio.

Feller, of course, was the first baseball player to enlist in the U.S. Navy after the bombings of Pearl Harbor. He could have asked for a deferment, as his father had terminal cancer, but Feller insisted upon serving his country.

He served aboard the USS Alabama, earning the rank of Chief Petty Officer, and participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Feller was decorated with six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. After he returned from the Navy in 1945, Feller won 118 games over the next six seasons, and helped lead the Indians to the 1948 World Series title.

He was as an instructor in the Navy’s physical training program, and in July 1942, led a team of servicemen against American League All-Stars at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, raising over $130,000 for the war efforts.

In his 18-year career, all with the Indians, Feller won 266 games, still a club record. He also owns the Indians all-time records in starts, innings, strikeouts and complete games.

Feller’s illustrious career — on the field and off — was the catalyst for the formation in 2013 of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Foundation. The Bob Feller Act of Valor Foundation, through the unique intersection of baseball and the US Navy, recognizes and honors those who support our servicemen and women with the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. The foundation also uses the Bob Feller story to educate the youth of today about the lessons of citizenship, service to one’s country and sacrifice in times of great national need. Teaching the legacy of the greatest generation to the youngest generation will help instill in them the virtues of service to others.