Sunday, October 4, 2009

Billy 'Benny' Felder, 84, Negro League Shortstop, 1925-2009

Former Newark Eagles and Indianapolis Clowns shortstop Billy "Benny" Felder died at his Tampa home Friday October 2, 2009. He was 84.

Felder became the shortstop for the Eagles at the start of the 1946 season after the departure of future Hall of Famer Willie Wells to Baltimore, putting him behind Leon Day during his opening day no-hitter in 1946 against the Philadelphia Stars.

Billy Felder 1946 Newark Eagles
Day's no-hitter foreshadowed what was to come, as the Eagles won the Negro World Series that year, defeating the Kansas City Monarchs in seven games. Felder told me that being on the field for that no-hitter and winning the World Series were his two proudest moments in baseball.

Felder played in the Negro Leagues from 1946-1948, spending the 1946 and 1947 campaigns with the Eagles and 1948 with the Indianapolis Clowns. As the doors to the major leagues started to slowly open to African-American baseball players in the early 1950s, Felder found his opportunity playing with Key West in the Florida International League in 1952 and Pampa of the West Texas-New Mexico League from 1953-1954. He finished out the 1954 season with Artesia in the Longhorn League. During the 1953 and 1954 seasons, Felder posted averages above .300.

Felder was part of a 2007 tribute to the Newark Eagles at Newark Bears and Eagles Stadium. The tribute was done by the Newark Historical Society, where during that day, streets in Newark were named after prominent members of the Newark Eagles. The Newark Bears inducted Hall of Famers from the Eagles into their Ring of Honor and the four members of the Newark Eagles threw out the first pitch at Bears and Eagles Stadium. Felder was honored along with Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, James "Red" Moore, and Willie "Curly" Williams.

Below are photos of Felder throwing out the first pitch, as well as another of him seated alongside the aforementioned members of the Eagles. The last photo is of Felder and myself at his Tampa home in August of 2008. We spent about 30 minutes talking baseball before my return flight home. He was extremely gracious and humble. May he rest peacefully.

Felder (far right) throwing out the first pitch at Newark Bears Stadium in  2007 / N. Diunte


Felder (far right) with Williams, Moore and Irvin in 2007 / N. Diunte


Benny Felder receiving honors at Newark Bears stadium in 2007 / N. Diunte


Felder (right) with author in 2008 / N. Diunte


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this awesome tribute to my Father in Law... I know he will appreciate it!

    ReplyDelete