September 13, 1958: Jack Feller
Jack Feller is what we like to call a defensive catcher. He was never known for having a great bat, but was a nice organizational piece in the mid-to-late 1950's for the Detroit Tigers organization. Feller played in some interesting cities over the first three years of his professional career including Panama City, Florida, Terre Haute, Indiana, Baxley, Georgia, and Durham, North Carolina.
Finally, by 1958 he earned himself a call up to the Detroit Tigers as rosters expanded. As a defensive catcher, he was likely only to come into a game as a defensive replacement, if anything.
In front of 5,500 fans at Briggs Stadium 61 years ago today, Feller was subbed in behind the plate. Entering the game in the top of the ninth of a contest in which the Tigers were leading 13-2, it was fairly obvious Feller wouldn't get to bat. However, he did get to catch future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, who was finishing up a complete game.
Bunning struck out one, giving Feller one put out, but quickly, Detroit's opponents, the Baltimore Orioles were done in the ninth and unbeknownst to him, the 21-year-old Feller's big-league career came to a close. The defensive catcher was featured in a 1959 Baseball Digest article in which his scouting report aptly said he had a "good arm and glove. Hitting problematical".
That lack of hitting ability ultimately caught up with him as 1959 marked his last in professional baseball. Splitting time between the Class-A Knoxville Smokies and Class-B Fox Cities Foxes, he hit just .235 in 80 games. Now 61 years since his lone MLB appearance, Feller is still alive, having lived ¾ of his life after that one game. Another "cup of coffee club" player made his debut in 1958, but we'll have to wait to tell his story.