CLEVELAND (WJW) – The U.S. Navy’s newest ship is in Cleveland, where on Friday its crew of 92 was honored in the name of one of the city’s greatest baseball players.
The U.S.S. Cooperstown, which will be commissioned in March, is making a stop in Cleveland on its way to its home port in Florida.
On Friday, the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation presented its crew with a bust of the Hall of Famer to remain permanently on the ship.
It was presented in conjunction with the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball lead by the Cleveland Guardians and the Northeast Ohio Foundation of Patriotism.
The award honors service members and those who support them in the name of Bob Feller, who interrupted his 18-year Hall of Fame career in Cleveland to join the U.S. Navy two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Bob Feller is the first professional athlete to enlist following the attack at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941,” said Jim Folk, Guardians Vice President of Ballpark Improvements. “He was always most proud of his time in the United States Navy. That was the game we had to win, he would say.”
Since 2013, the award has been presented to individuals, but Friday was the first time it was presented to the entire crew of a U.S. Navy vessel.
“It’s a good educational experience for the crew to realize that there are these people of stature who were willing to serve and willing to sacrifice. In the case of Feller, walked away in the prime of his career to serve in the United States Navy,” said Richard DeChant, of NEOPAT. “The stars all aligning. I mean, you have a star ballplayer from Cleveland who was in the hall of fame in Cooperstown, New York and what’s the latest ship in the Navy coming through the Great Lakes is the USS Cooperstown and to have this all come together today in Cleveland is just a phenomenal experience.”
Many of the sailors visiting the displays at the Progressive Field Terrace Club knew little or nothing about Feller beforehand.
“I don’t think that… a lot of the sailors understood until today. Knowing that Bob Feller was a chief, you know, its a big deal, and the first chief’s mess is here today to accept the Feller bust. It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Keona Johnson of the U.S.S. Cooperstown.
The foundation expects to bestow the same honor on the crew of a sister ship currently under construction when it arrives in Cleveland in 2024.
It will be the fourth U.S. Navy Vessel to be named the U.S.S. Cleveland.