Updated: 6:15 p.m.
Bengals president Mike Brown was a kid again Thursday.
At least the fourth-grader that served as a bat boy for Bob Feller's Great Lakes Naval Center baseball team. For just a second as he remembered his boyhood hero from nearly 70 years ago in Cleveland, Brown looked like he might kick into Feller's legendary windup.
"He had a leg kick that I'm sure would be unacceptable today with a high leg kick," Brown said. "He would make (Bronson) Arroyo's look like a slide step. I, of course, could imitate that until I had his windup down pat. I can still show how it looked, but I think I'll spare you that."
Feller, the Hall of Fame righty who fireballed through the majors in the years before and after Pearl Harbor while missing his peak years to World War II, died at 92 earlier this week. To Brown's generation of youngsters he was Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and David Price all rolled into one.
"To me he was sort of a hero," Brown said. "One time up there (at Great Lakes), he got into a contest with himself to see how far he could throw the ball down the foul line. For some reason, probably because I thought he was Superman and he could throw the ball out of the park, it went a mere 312 feet. I was expecting more."
Brown, 75, would end up seeing a lot more of Feller. His father, Paul Brown, the Great Lakes football coach, became friendly with Feller and their friendship grew when Brown went to Cleveland as the head coach of the Browns in 1946. Mike Brown remembers Feller visiting their home and the two Hall of Famers indulging in their interest in magic tricks. Brown still has some magic from those days.
"At home I have an autographed baseball signed by Bob Feller. It was (from) one of the times he was over to the house in Cleveland," Brown said. "I was told by Feller, or my father, or both I should not let that keep me from playing with the baseball. Baseballs were meant to be played with and so I played with it. And it is scuffed up and the signature is still on there, although I think it is faded to the point that only I would know for sure that his signature is on there. For me, it was a treasured keepsake."
The last time he saw Feller was back when Paul was still alive and Feller came to Cincinnati for a book signing. Mike went to the event and asked him to inscribe a book to his father.
"He recognized me and remembered I was a bat boy at Great Lakes, which I found flattering," Brown said. "Of course, my father was not impressed with Feller's signature in the book as I thought he would be."
Brown can remember the signature moments. Feller's fastball being timed by a motorcycle long before radar guns. Listening to the radio when Feller slipped throwing a pitch against Philadelphia and hurting his arm, the injury that robbed of his top speed. The candor that some liked and others didn't.
"He never gave in. He always kept going. He was always independent," Brown said. "He would say things about how he thought the world ought to be and that went on well into his 80s, maybe even when was 90. People would want to debate it with him, or contest it with him, or criticize him, but the point is he never backed down. He just kept on doing it. He'd say what he thought. If you didn't like it you could say what you thought. I admired that. I didn't always agree with what he said, but I admired the fact that he was prepared to say it."
How exactly high did that windup go? Brown would only smile.
"In those days, above your head," he said. "You have to do it right. He used to take his arms way up behind his back."
SHIP AND WARD: Bengals wide receiver
"We still talk every once in awhile and he's a good friend of mine," Shipley said. "It will be fun to get to see him out there."
He'll also see Browns safety T.J. Ward, the man that drilled Shipley in the head on an incomplete pass in the end zone during the Bengals 23-20 loss in Cleveland Oct. 3. Shipley had to leave the game after sustaining a concussion and missed the next one, too. Ward was fined $10,000 a few weeks before the NFL upped their fines for helmet-to-helmet hits and Bengals wide receiver
On Wednesday, Ward told The Cleveland Plain-Dealer that he plans on talking to Shipley at some point Sunday to let him know he had no intent of hurting him.
"I just thought it was leading with your helmet that you'd get a penalty for, but I guess it's just striking a defenseless receiver to the helmet," he told the paper. "I did hit him with my shoulder pad, it wasn't helmet-to-helmet contact, but at the same time it was a blow to the head."
Shipley has shrugged ever since it happened and never took on Ward, saying it's part of the game. That's what he said Thursday when asked what he'll say to Ward.
"I understand it's a tough thing for a defensive player," Shipley said. "Our guys see their point of view, too. They feel like sometimes they have to be so careful and it's a very short window of time before they decide what they have to do. Those kind of things happen. All you can do is learn from it and move on.
"I think the league is doing a great job making it a little more safe with brain injuries and that type of thing."
INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver
For the Browns, returner Josh Cribbs (foot) went full go Thursday. Tight end Evan Moore (hip), who beat the Bengals last time deep, hasn't worked the last two days and neither has linebacker David Bowens (head), or linebacker Scott Fujita (knee). Nose tackle Shaun Rogers (ankle, hip) went from out to limited Thursday.
BLACKOUT: Sunday's Bengals-Browns game at Paul Brown Stadium is not a sellout, the Bengals Ticket Office announced Thursday. In accordance with NFL policy, the game will not be televised in the Bengals home market cities of Cincinnati, Dayton and Lexington, Ky. NFL policy states that games must be sold out 72 hours in advance of kickoff to be televised locally. The sellout deadline was at 1 p.m. Thursday.
In the Bengals home market only, there will be a 72-hour period during which there will be no charge for fans to access a replay of the Cleveland game broadcast (CBS) on NFL.com. During the 72-hour period, fans in the Bengals home market will see an "NFL Game Rewind" tab or banner on the home page of NFL.com.
The window for free viewing will begin at midnight on Sunday (Monday morning) and will run through midnight Wednesday (Thursday morning). The only time during that period in which the replay will not be available will be during the ESPN Monday Night Football telecast on Dec. 20.