Cy Young had a secret: He threw two curve balls. “One of them sailed in there as hard as my fastball and broke in reverse,” he once said. “The other was a wide break.” Maybe that’s what he told Bob Feller on May 8, 1941, when the 74-year-old Hall of Famer and the 22-year-old phenom discussed pitching techniques in the Indians’ dugout at League Park.
Feller didn’t need much advice that season. On May 5, he’d struck out 12 Washington Senators while giving up only three hits in a 2-1 win, the Indians’ 11th straight.
Rapid Robert would finish the season with a 25-13 record. But fans already knew fate might wreck Feller’s chances to join Young in the elite 300-win club. Detroit Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg, the reigning American League MVP, was drafted into the Army that first week of May. Newspapers were filled with reports of Britain’s air raids against Nazi Germany. Americans expected to join the war against Hitler before long.
“Greenberg is making a sacrifice, a big one,” wrote the Cleveland News’ Tommy Tucker. “One of these days it will be Bob Feller’s turn. And yours — and mine.”