July 30, 2013 at 12:42 PM
A daughter remembers her father’s brush with baseball greatness
By Pam Peterson
Reader Pam Peterson is retired, living in Belltown with her husband Bob, enjoying travel, study, Mediterranean cooking and happy hours with friends. She wrote about one of her favorite baseball memories involving her father Bill Benesiuk, a gifted builder with a deep appreciation for family, friends, good food and drink – especially Jack Daniels with a splash of water.
A tremendous source of pride for my father, Bill Benesiuk, was his service in the United States Navy during World War II. He enlisted and was assigned to the USS Pensacola, designated for the South Pacific. During times of an occasional slow-down of hostilities, ships would have athletic competitions.
My dad was athletic, possessed incredible eyesight, and was not too bad of a baseball player. One day on, I believe, Guadalcanal, the Pensacola was having a baseball game against the Alabama. I don’t know who was pitching for the Pensacola, but Bob Feller was pitching for the Alabama. Here’s how it went, according to my dad:
“I got up to the plate, faced Feller, got into the batting crouch and heard the umpire say ‘STRIKE ONE!’ I didn’t see the ball! I got into the crouch again, pounded the bat on the plate a few times and heard the umpire say, ‘STRIKE TWO!’ I didn’t see the ball! Again I face Feller, and would you believe I didn’t see that third ball go by?”
My dad told this story often and with much fondness having at least faced the great Bob Feller, who was known as one of baseball’s hardest throwers, no matter the outcome.
In the mid 1980s I read in a San Francisco paper that Bob Feller would be signing autographs along with other famous baseball players. My husband Bob and I went to the signing. Younger players had lines of folks waiting to have their baseballs signed, but Bob Feller was sitting alone. We approached him and told him the story of my dad not even seeing the ball but being so proud to have faced the great Bob Feller. He chuckled and took the baseball I handed him.
“What’s your dad’s name?” he asked.
“Bill,” I told him.
Mr. Feller stopped, thought for a moment, wrote something and handed the ball back to me.
It said, “Bill, sorry I struck you out. Bob Feller”
That ball was treasured by my dad and sat in a little protective case where he could look at it every day. My dad died last October, a little more than two years after Mr. Feller passed. I have the ball where I can look at it every day, too, and remember how sweet and kind a man Bob Feller was.
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