The Bob Feller Museum is the centerpiece of Van Meter, IA which is just outside of Des Moines. I had been there once before during a family vacation in 1996 or 1997.
While the museum itself is not huge they do have a very impressive autograph collection and the museum has regular signings of legends and current players. They have Lou Brock and Wally Moon coming October 16th. Bill Buckner and a bunch of other former Cubs will be there October 30th while Goose Gossage will be signing November 2oth.
There is little doubt that Bob Feller is one of the greatest pitchers ever but due to his service in World War II he doesn't have the all-time great statistics. Bob became the first baseball player to enlist in the armed forces after the attack on Pearl Harbor and so he missed the entire 1942, 1943, 1944,and most of 1945 season. He had been averaging about 25 wins a season before enlisting so there is a good chance that he would have ended up with a career win total closer to 340 rather than the 266 wins he earned.
This huge painting portrays Bob pitching on Opening Day of the 1940 season. He pitched the only Opening Day no-hitter in major league history that day against the White Sox.
The centerpiece to the museum is the famous Babe Ruth bat that he leaned on in one of the most iconic baseball photos ever taken. The photo was taken on June 13, 1948 during a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were playing the Cleveland Indians that day and Ruth was holding Bob Feller's bat [remember no designated hitter back then] when he stood on the field.
The bat is encased in a plastic case that let's you see all sides of it.
It has a bunch of different signatures on it, the most famous being Babe's. The autograph has faded greatly but you can still make out most of his signature when you examine it closely.
Which leads me to the the best part of my visit. I was the only person visiting the museum at the time I was there and so the guy behind the front desk showed me around a little bit. He was telling me about the Ruth signature and where to find it on the bat and then he said "I wanted to get a black marker and write over the top of it so that everyone can see it better but they told me that that wasn't a good idea."
I was dumbfounded by what he had said and after a few seconds I said, "yeah, that probably wouldn't be a good idea."
He left me to look around some more and later when I was leaving and buying some souvenirs he was on the phone talking with someone about an upcoming signing to be held at the museum. He kept referring to "Tommy Johns" with an added "s" and it made me wonder about a person who works at a baseball museum who didn't really know much about the sport. It's a living I guess.
Here's a poster from the museum of The Heater from Van Meter!
And remember kids, sleep tight because Chief Wahoo will be waiting for you in your dreams: