All-Stars visit West Sound

The line wound out of the quarterdeck, down a hallway and back again Thursday morning as nurses, doctors, staff, children and visitors waited patiently at Naval Hospital Bremerton.

The reason they were there was to see baseball Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Harmon Killebrew and former All-Stars John Tudor, Manny Sanguillen and Jimmy Wynn, who were visiting the West Sound as part of the AT&T Heroes to Heroes Tour which also stopped at Subase Bangor and Naval Station Bremerton.

“I love baseball and to have these guys take their time to come out and visit with the sailors is great,” said Rear Adm. Len Hering, commander of Navy Region Northwest. “To be able to hold a ball that Bob Feller touched is amazing.”

Feller, who left his baseball career in his prime to volunteer in the Navy two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, was the clear favorite among the assembled crowd. He’s been to Bremerton before when his battleship, the U.S.S. Alabama towed in two ships in 1944 and he lived at the Olympic Hotel for a few months.

“We’re here to see Bob Feller,” said Jeff Woods, who with his son Chris, was the first in line to get the players’ signatures. “I like him because he played for sports before the big money came through and he played because he loves the game.”

Wearing a cap from the newest incarnation of the USS Alabama, a Trident submarine stationed at Subase Bangor, Feller was quick to dish out stories from his baseball and Navy days.

“I’m proud to be back here among all these officers and chiefs,” said Feller, who won 266 games over 18 seasons and helped Gen. Douglas MacArthur retake the Phillipines. “We’re happy to promote the United States Navy.”

Others had their own favorites they wanted to meet.

“He was my favorite player when I was growing up,” Pittsburgh native Lt. Cdr. Ronald Dommeruth after meeting Sanguillen, a free-swinging catcher with the Pirates in the ’70s. “I had his picture on the wall and I used to argue with the kid across the street who liked Roberto Clemente on who was the better player. I still remember the guy’s birthday and it’s 30 years later.”

And while the fans had their heroes, the players looked at it from the other point of view. “We just want to thank these sailors for what they’ve done and this is our way of doing that,” said Wynn, a former centerfielder with the Houston Astros. “These guys are out there trying to save the world. They are our heroes.”

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