by Brad Dison
On Sunday, May 14, 1939, approximately 28,000 fans gathered at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox major league baseball team, to watch the Cleveland Indians play the White Sox. Over 700 fans from Van Meter, Iowa, drove some 400 miles to Chicago to watch Bob Feller, their hometown boy, pitch for the Cleveland Indians. Among the group from Van Meter was Lena, her husband William, and their daughter Marguerite. They sat in front row seats on the first baseline.
Cleveland Indians fans, including those from Van Meter, were ecstatic because the Indians were leading 6 to 0 by the last half of the third inning. Chicago White Sox third baseman Marv Owen stepped up to the plate. Cleveland Indians Pitcher Bob Feller wound up and threw a powerful fast ball. Marv swung at the last possible moment. Crack!!! Marv’s bat struck the fastball with tremendous force. The foul ball flew into the front row seats on the first baseline and hit Lena just above her left eye. The lenses of Lena’s glasses shattered and lacerated her nose and eye. Blood poured from her eyelid and forehead.
The game was delayed for only a few moments. Cleveland Indians trainer Max “Lefty” Weisman rushed into the stands to render aid to the injured woman. Lefty, along with Lena’s husband and daughter, helped her to an automobile and drove her to a nearby hospital.
Bob was visibly shaken and stood “stark still” on the pitcher’s mound. As soon as Lena was on her way to the hospital, Bob resumed pitching. Unable to fully concentrate on the game, Bob allowed the White Sox to score three runs before he regained his composure. When the game was over, Cleveland Indians had beaten the Chicago White Sox 9 to 4. The fans from Van Meter who remained at the game were thrilled they witnessed their hometown boy pitch a winning game.
At the hospital, doctors treated the cuts around Lena’s left eye. Lena needed six stitches to close the wounds. Doctors determined that Lena probably had a mild concussion. Luckily, Lena’s skull was not fractured. They expected her to make a full recovery.
As soon as the game was over, Bob sped to the hospital to check on the injured woman. Bob hurried to Lena’s hospital room and found her sitting in the hospital bed with her head swathed in bandages. “Everything is all right,” Lena reassured the distraught pitcher, “I just didn’t see that ball coming.”
After hearing that Lena would recover, Bob reminded her that he had promised to win the game as a Mother’s Day present, which he did. However, Bob did not expect his mother to miss the end of the game due to a baseball injury. You see, Lena was Bob’s mother. The baseball game in which Bob Feller’s pitch struck his mother happened on May 14, 1939, which was Mother’s Day.
1. The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), May 15, 1939, p.5.
2. The Coshocton Tribune (Coshocton, Ohio), May 15, 1939, p.2.