On April 16, 1940, the Cleveland Indians’ Bob Feller pitches his first no-hitter. He went on to throw two more no-hitters in his career; only two other pitchers in baseball history have recorded more no-hitters.
Feller, who grew up playing catch with his father on his family’s farm in Iowa, made his major league debut at just 17 years old with the Cleveland Indians on July 19, 1936. His overpowering fastball quickly established him as a strikeout king. In September of his rookie year, in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics, he struck out 17 batters. On October 2, 1938, in a game against the Detroit Tigers, the “Heater from Van Meter” (Feller was also nicknamed “Rapid Robert”) struck out 18 players and set a major league record for strikeouts in a single, nine-inning game.
On April 16, 1940, Feller threw his first no-hitter, against the Chicago White Sox on opening day at Comiskey Park. The Indians won the game, 1-0. Feller’s no-hitter remains the only one to occur on any opening day in baseball history. He pitched a second no-hitter against the New York Yankees on April 30, 1946, and his third no-hitter came on July 1, 1951, in a game against the Detroit Tigers.
Nolan Ryan holds the record for most no-hitters, with seven. Sandy Koufax had four, while Cy Young and Larry Corcoran, along with Feller, recorded three in their pitching careers.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II, Feller joined the Navy, the first big-leaguer to enlist in the armed forces. He spent the majority of his time aboard the U.S.S. Alabama in the gunnery department before being discharged in 1945, after missing four seasons of baseball. In 1946, Feller set a big league record for most strikeouts in a single season, with 348.
After spending his entire career with the Indians, he retired from baseball in 1956, with 266 wins, 162 losses and a total of 2,581 strikeouts. He led the American League in strikeouts seven times and in wins six times. In addition to his three no-hitters, he recorded 12 one-hit games in his career. Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.