Grave Story: Marvin Felderman (1915-2000)

Here lies Marv Felderman, whose major-league career lasted for three games with the Chicago Cubs in 1942. His minor-league career lasted a good bit longer than that, and his military career had some athletic highlights as well.

Marvin Wilfred Felderman was born in Bellevue, Iowa, on December 20, 1915. He was nicknamed “Coonie,” which was apparently inherited from his father, Conrad. He went to Bellevue High School, where he was a star on the school’s basketball and baseball teams. He spent four years as a forward on the basketball team and was an All-Conference forward in the Black Hawk League. He was a catcher and a pitcher on the baseball team, which went to the semifinals in the state tournament in 1933 and ’34. Felderman was undefeated as a pitcher in those tournament games, reported the Norfolk Daily News in 1936.

Felderman while with the Nashville Vols. Source: Nashville Banner, March 17, 1941.

After graduation, Felderman spent 1935 playing for a Bellevue team in the Maquoeta Valley League. He hit .470 in 100 at-bats, with 7 home runs, and the team won the league championship. From there, Felderman went to the Roy Doan Baseball School to further his dreams of playing baseball professionally. The Doan school, which was based in Hot Springs, Ark., featured some pretty legendary instructors, like George Sisler, Tris Speaker, Rogers Hornsby and Cy Young. A few of its graduates went to the majors, including catcher Sam Narron. Another attendee of note was Babe Didrikson, considered one of the best female athletes of all-time. She went to the school with her brother Arthur in 1934.

During his time at the Doan school, Felderman was noticed by veteran scout and minor-league manager Joe McDermott, who signed him to his own Norfolk Elks in 1936. Felderman batted over .300 and slugged .427 for the Elks, and the Norfolk Daily News referred to him as a diamond in the rough. “He has a fine throwing arm, knows how to handle pitchers in spite of only a few years of experience, and is a good hitter,” the paper added. “Cooney is rather quiet in nature off the ball field but has chatter and hustle aplenty when the battle is raging.”

See Marv Felderman at Baseball Almanac

Felderman moved to the Duluth Dukes of the Northern League in 1937, and he spent two seasons there. He was the league’s All-Star catcher in 1937, as he batted .262 with 11 home runs and 25 doubles. He had remarkably similar numbers for the Dukes in ‘38, but he raised his batting average to .277. He had a field day against the Eau Claire Bears on May 27 of that year, with 3 doubles and a home run in a 11-2 victory. Felderman moved out of the Midwest when he was traded to the Johnson City (Tenn.) Redbirds in January of 1939. The Redbirds moved the 23-year-old catcher and several other younger players to the Lenoir (N.C.) Indians of the Tar Heel League. He batted .314 there with a career-high 13 home runs and found himself on the move once again, as his contract was acquired by Dayton of the Mid-Atlantic League.

Dayton shipped Felderman to the Nashville Volunteers of the Southern Association for the 1940 season. The downside of the move was that he spent the season as a backup to Charley “Greek” George. But while Felderman was limited to 63 games, he hit at a great .333 clip, with 11 doubles. He hit particularly well with young Vols pitcher Johnny Sain was on the mound and contributed to a few of his victories. Furthermore, the Vols won the 1940 Southern League championship and was remembered for years to come as one of the best-hitting teams Nashville had ever had. Felderman returned in 1941 as part of a catching platoon with Hank Helf. He appeared in 96 games and batted a more pedestrian .277, with 13 doubles and 4 triples. In August of 1941, the Chicago Cubs purchased his contract from Nashville, along with that of pitcher Russ Meers.

World War II changed the lives of many baseball players. Both Meers and Felderman spent the offseason in Chicago working for instrumentation company Stewart-Warner Co. as part of the war effort. It was believed that they would get drafted sometime in 1942, throwing their position with the Cubs into doubt. Felderman appeared in one game in April – as a pinch-runner, of all things. He entered into a game against Cincinnati on April 19, in the 14th inning with the Cubs down 2-1. Chico Hernandez had led off the inning with a single and was replaced by Felderman, who averaged about 2 stolen bases per season in the minors in his career. He was sacrificed to second by Stan Hack, and then Phil Cavarretta hit a fly ball to center field that evidently confused Felderman, as he was doubled off second base for a game-ending double-play.

Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 25, 1944

Felderman soon was sent to the minor leagues and played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, batting .218 in 53 games. He was brought back to the majors in September and made a start on the 17th in Philadelphia. In 5 plate appearances, he had a walk and his only major-league hit, a single off Hilly Flitcraft. His final major-league appearance was on September 21 against Cincinnati. Felderman reliever starting catcher Jimmie Foxx in the sixth inning and struck out twice against Reds starter Johnny Vander Meer, who had 11 K’s in a 4-1 complete game win.

Felderman finished the season with 1 hit in 6 at-bats, for a .167/.286/.167 slash line. He also struck out 4 times. He had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage as a catcher, with 10 chances in 13 innings behind the plate.

In December of 1942, Felderman joined the U.S. Navy and went into training at the Great Lakes Naval Station. The station’s baseball team was managed by Lieutenant Mickey Cochrane, who had a wealth of major-league talent from which to choose, including Johnny Mize, Eddie Pellagrini, Glenn McQuillen and Barney McCoskey. Felderman and George Dickey (Bill Dickey’s brother) were the top two catchers. Felderman was transferred to Hawaii in 1944, and he was added to a group of major-league All-Stars who played a team Honolulu All-Stars in the first War Bond Game ever played in the territory. The major-leaguers, in addition to Felderman, included Hugh Casey, Mize, Pee Wee Reese, McCoskey, George Dickey and Johnny Lucadello. More than 20,000 people showed up for the game, and more than $1 million worth of war bonds were sold, between admission and a post-game auction of autographed memorabilia. The game itself was much closer than you’d expect, with the major-leaguers pulling out a 4-2 win in 12 innings. Felderman was 0-for-2 in the game before George Dickey took over behind the plate.

Felderman remained in Hawaii and served as the first-string catcher for Kaneohe Klippers of the 14th Naval District League. He was discharged shortly after the 1945 World Series. By then, the Cubs had moved on, with catchers like Clyde McCollough and Mickey Livingston doing an adequate job behind the plate. Chicago released him to the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association, and he hit .293 in 1946 with 5 homers and 49 RBIs in his return to pro ball. He rejoined the Cubs but was released to the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League for 1947, along with outfielder Cecil Garriott and infielder Albie Glossop. Before he could get comfortable in L.A., his contract was sold in late May to the Shreveport Sports, who were in dire need of a backup catcher. He hit .230 and was released at the end of the season.

Felderman played briefly for the Grand Rapids Jets of the Class-A Central League in 1948 before finishing the season with a semipro club in Benton Harbor, Mich. Now 32 years old, he injured his knee and then took a foul tip off his bare hand in a game against the Indianapolis Clowns. He had intended to leave baseball after that season, but he re-signed with Benton Harbor in 1949 and came back once again in 1951 to play a few games in Fort Worth and Fresno before hanging up his spikes for good. In 11 seasons in the minors, Felderman hit approximately .281 with 47 home runs, 77 RBIs and 122 doubles.

Information about Felderman outside of his baseball career is rather scarce. He was married to Kathryn Holloway, who also served during World War II — that may have been how they met. They had two daughters and a son. Marvin Felderman died of natural causes on August 6, 2000, in Riverside, Calif. He was 84 years old. He is buried in Riverside National Cemetery.

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