Swisher named Bob Feller Act of Valor Award winner
First baseman joins Hall of Fame manager Lasorda, Chief Petty Officer Thompson
CLEVELAND -- Bob Feller accomplished a long list of feats while wearing an Indians jersey, but donning a uniform for the United States Navy brought the late pitcher the most pride. Feller's legacy both on and off the field lives on through a unique and fitting award that bears his name.
The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award was established last year and is meant to honor three men who possess the values, integrity and dedication to serving the United States that Feller displayed. On Wednesday, Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda and Senior Chief Petty Officer Carl Thompson of the U.S. Navy were revealed as the 2014 recipients of the accolade.
"The first thing that comes to mind is honor and pride," Swisher said in a release. "For me, just to be in the same breath as a man like Bob Feller, I could not be more honored to be in this position. I could not be more grateful to receive this award, something that is near and dear to my heart."
Author Peter Fertig created the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award with the support of the U.S. Navy, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial, the Indians, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and Mrs. Anne Feller. The annual award honors one member of baseball's Hall of Fame, one current Major League player and a U.S. Navy Petty Officer.
This year's winners will receive their awards in a ceremony from 6-9 p.m. ET on Nov. 5 at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. The event will feature a group of baseball luminaries and Navy leadership, including Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens.
Swisher, whose grandfather served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, supports the Wounded Warriors Program and assists Philips Norelco's charitable activities on Operation Homefront. Swisher and his wife, JoAnna Garcia, have also taken part in USO tours to Afghanistan to visit with troops.
"To have the honor and privilege to go over there was amazing," Swisher said in July, when he was nominated for the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. "It's a trip I'll never forget and something I was proud to say that I did."
Lasorda -- the longtime manager of the Dodgers -- put his professional playing career on hold from 1945-47 to serve in the United States Army. During that time, Lasorda was stationed at Fort Meade, Md. To date, Lasorda has visited more than 40 U.S. military installations across the world, and he took part in a 2009 USO Goodwill tour for troops in Iraq. This past year, Lasorda has participated in Navy general retirement ceremonies and in the swearing-in of over 1,500 new U.S. troops.
"It is a privilege and an honor to receive the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award," Lasorda said in a release. "I have the highest respect and admiration for the men and women who serve in the United States Navy, as well as the other branches of the military. I loved Bob Feller and am so grateful to receive an award that bears his name."
Senior Chief Thompson is held in the highest regard by his leaders, peers and shipmates. Thompson is currently serving as the Calibration Laboratory Leading Chief Petty Officer, supporting 18 departments, the USS George Washington Strike Group and 71 Carrier Air Wing FIVE aircraft. He also completed a voluntary assignment to Djibouti, Africa, where he worked as Command Security Manager for the Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa.
"This is a tremendous honor and such a humbling experience for me," Thompson said in a statement. "I am overwhelmed and extremely excited at the same time. I would have never dreamed that I would receive an award for the way I live my life, but I am extremely grateful for my parents and all those teachers, mentors, and community leaders along the way who instilled in me the morals and ethics that I live my life by."
Beyond Swisher, other players nominated this season included Adam LaRoche of the Nationals, Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers, Charlie Morton of the Pirates, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox and Brad Ziegler of the D-backs. For the current players category, Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander took home the first Bob Feller Act of Valor Award last year.
Feller enlisted in the Navy days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and went on to serve on six missions in both the Pacific and North Atlantic, earning the rank of Chief Petty Officer, six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. After Feller's passing in December 2010, Fertig pitched the idea for the award to the pitcher's widow, Anne, and eventually the concept became reality.
"It is truly inspiring to watch these players within Major League Baseball honor our U.S. Military and those who serve proudly today," Fertig said in a statement. "Bob Feller led his generation onto the field of battle and away from the baseball diamond for a more significant reason. He was not alone; Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lasorda and millions of other regular citizens joined him.
"These celebrated Americans from our past understood the importance of keeping our world safe from tyranny. The legacy of Bob Feller and the greatest generation are embodied throughout these players and their respective clubs for honoring those who serve this great nation, and for this we are forever grateful."