Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kinnick-Feller were Legion batterymates

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

I'm sure it's not news to many, but I had never heard until recently that Bob Feller and Nile Kinnick were batterymates in Junior American Legion ball at Adel, Iowa in the early 1930s, prior to Kinnick moving to Nebraska.

Feller went to Van Meter High School and Kinnick to Adel High School, about 10 miles away. While their schools were athletic rivals, in the summer of 1932 they played Legion ball for the Adel Legion post.

Feller went on to win a World Championship with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 and become the first American Legion alumnus elected to the Hall of Fame. Kinnick won all of college football's highest honors in 1939 as a consensus All-American at Iowa.

In a 1940 interview, he spoke of his Legion ball days. "Bob was the team's star pitcher and I was the catcher. He had plenty of zip on the ball and he would nearly knock my knuckles off. The high school kids he would pitch against were scared to death of his fast one and I can't say I blame them."

The American Legion teammates remain linked today in the name of Kinnick-Feller Riverside Park in Adel.

P.S. I also did not know that Kinnick was a practicing Christian Scientist.

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