Johnny Vander Meer
|Johnny Vander Meer|
|Born: November 2, 1914|
Prospect Park, New Jersey
|Died: October 6, 1997 (aged 82)|
|April 22, 1937, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 7, 1951, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Earned run average||3.44|
|Career highlights and awards|
John Samuel Vander Meer (November 2, 1914 – October 6, 1997) was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball as a left-handed pitcher, most notably for the Cincinnati Reds. Vander Meer is most notable for being the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw two consecutive no-hitters. After the impressive start to his major league career, he experienced problems controlling the accuracy of his pitching, and his later career was marked by inconsistent performances.
Born in Prospect Park, New Jersey, he moved with his family to Midland Park, New Jersey in 1918. He had an inauspicious start to his professional baseball career. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1933 and assigned to the Dayton Ducks. Dayton then sold his contract to a Boston Bees minor league affiliate, the Scranton Miners of the New York–Pennsylvania League. The Miners found his playing ability to be lacking and sent him to the Cincinnati Reds affiliate, the Nashville Volunteers, in a trade for Tiny Chaplin. From Nashville, he was sent to the Durham Bulls, where the Bulls manager and catcher, Johnny Gooch, was credited with helping control the wildness of Vander Meer's pitching. In 1936, he posted a record of 19 wins against six losses for Durham.
Vander Meer made his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds on April 22, 1937 at the age of 22. He went 3–4 before being sent back to the minor leagues with the Syracuse Chiefs for most of the season when the Reds recalled him in September. The following year on June 11, 1938, Vander Meer pitched a no-hitter against the Boston Bees. Four days later against the Brooklyn Dodgers in what was the first night game ever held at Ebbets Field, he threw another no-hitter, becoming the only player in major league history to throw two straight no-hitters.
Vander Meer's performance earned him the role as the starting pitcher for the National League team in the 1938 All-Star game held at Cincinnati's Crosley Field. The American League team – having won four of the previous five All-Star games – was favored to win the game, but Vander Meer pitched three scoreless innings and allowed only one hit, as the National League went on to win 4–1. He ended the season with a 15–10 record and a 3.12 earned run average for the fourth place Reds. He might have won more games, but spent nearly a month in the hospital being treated for boils late in the season.
After his impressive rookie season, Vander Meer had a disappointing 1939 season, when he fell ill during spring training, and then suffered an injury when he slipped on a wet pitching mound in Pittsburgh. He posted a 5–9 record and an earned run average of 4.67. Early in the 1940 season, he began to experience problems controlling the accuracy of his pitches. In June, the Reds released him back to the minor leagues where he played for the Indianapolis Indians and went 6–4. He returned to the major leagues in September and posted a 3–1 record, including a win for pitching 12 innings against Philadelphia on September 18; a win that clinched the National League pennant for the Reds. Leading off the 13th inning, Vander Meer hit a double, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, stayed at third on an infield hit, then scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly. [Note: the Sacrifice Fly was not an official statistic in 1940, so the At Bat by Ival Goodman counted, as did his RBI]. In the 1940 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Vander Meer made only one appearance when he entered Game 5 in the fifth inning with the Reds trailing 7–0. He pitched three scoreless innings as the Reds lost 8–0. The Reds went on to win the series in seven games. It would be the only post-season appearance of Vander Meer's career.
In 1941, Vander Meer's performance improved somewhat with a 16–12 record and six shutouts while leading the league with 202 strikeouts. On June 6, 1941, in a game against Philadelphia, he allowed only one hit. Vander Meer later recalled that the only hit in the game could have been ruled an error, as shortstop Eddie Joost fielded the ground ball, then dropped it before throwing to first base. He earned his third All-Star selection in the 1942 All-Star Game, and once again threw three scoreless innings in a 3–1 loss to the American League. He finished the 1942 season with a career-high 18 wins against 12 losses and once again led the league in strikeouts. He posted a 15–16 record in 1943 for the second place Reds and led the league in strikeouts for a third consecutive year. On March 3, 1944, Vander Meer joined the United States Navy and was stationed at Sampson Naval Training Station in New York where he would play for the Navy baseball team. He was discharged from the Navy in December 1945, having lost two years of his major league career to his military service, but Vander Meer claimed that his extensive military play made him less wild as a pitcher, which his record partially supports.
The 31-year-old pitcher returned to play for the Reds in 1946 although he was not able to recapture his previous form. Vander Meer was an incidental witness when his Cincinnati teammate Ewell Blackwell almost duplicated his consecutive no-hit feat in 1947, by pitching a no-hitter against the Braves, then in his next appearance held the Dodgers without a hit until the ninth inning when he gave up two hits. He produced one more notable season in 1948 when he went 17–14, before his contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs in February 1950. After an ineffective year with the Cubs, he was released in March 1951 and was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Indians. He appeared in only one game for the Indians on May 7, 1951, before being released on June 30, 1951, at the age of 36.
Vander Meer returned to the minor leagues where he played for five more seasons until the age of 40. In 1952, 14 years after his consecutive no-hitters, Vander Meer pitched a no-hitter for the Tulsa Oilers against the Beaumont Roughnecks in the Texas League.
A four-time All-Star, Vander Meer compiled a 119–121 record with 1,294 strikeouts and a 3.44 ERA in 2,104+2⁄3 innings over a 13-year Major League career. He had 29 career shutouts, ranking third on the Reds franchise list. His 1,251 strikeouts with the Reds were the team record at the time of his retirement in 1951. Along with Dizzy Dean (1932–1935), Warren Spahn (1949–1952), Randy Johnson (1999–2002), Tim Lincecum (2008–2010), and Max Scherzer (2016–2018), Vander Meer is one of only six NL pitchers since 1930 to lead the league in strikeouts in three straight seasons (1941–1943).
After retiring as a player at the age of 40, Vander Meer became a minor league manager in the Cincinnati Reds organization for ten seasons before retiring in 1962. After his retirement from baseball, he worked for a brewing company. He was inducted as part of the inaugural class into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1958. He died of an abdominal aneurysm at his home in Tampa, Florida, on October 6, 1997, at the age of 82.
- "Johnny Vander Meer statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "This Day In Sports: Johnny Vander Meer Makes Debut(s) That Would Impress Stephen Strasburg". ESPN. June 15, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Johnny Vander Meer at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame". cincinnati.reds.mlb.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- Coutros, Evonne. "Midland Park marking 75th anniversary of Johnny Vander Meer's double no-hitters", The Record (Bergen County), April 8, 2013. Accessed January 27, 2015. "Born Nov. 2, 1914, Vander Meer was an athlete from the time he was in elementary school. His father, Jacob — who worked at Paterson's United Piece and Dye Works — and mother, Katie, lived in Prospect Park until 1918, when they moved to their first home in Midland Park on Rea Avenue."
- "Vander Meer Pitches Second No Run, No Hit Game In Row". The Bulletin. United Press International. June 16, 1938. p. 7. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Johnny Vander Meer minor league statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "June 11, 1938 Braves-Reds box score". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "June 15, 1938 Reds-Dodgers box score". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Consecutive No Hitters by Johnny Vander Meer". Baseball Almanac.com. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Vander Meer And Gomez Slated To Start All-Star Game Today". The Meriden Record. Associated Press. July 6, 1938. p. 4. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "1938 All-Star Game". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- Langford, Walter M. (June 1985). Johnny Vander Meer Recalls His Consecutive No-Hitters. Baseball Digest. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- "Johnny Vander Meer Is Working Hard To Perfect Control". The Daily Times. United Press International. March 16, 1940. p. 4. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Reds Release Vander Meer". The Pittsburgh Press. United Press International. June 29, 1940. p. 7. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "1940 Johnny Vander Meer Pitching Log". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "September 18, 1940 Reds-Phillies box score". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- "1940 World Series Game 5 box score". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "1940 World Series". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "Johnny Vander Meer post-season statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "Vander Meer Wins One-Hitter". Eugene Register Guard. Associated Press. June 8, 1941. p. 6. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- Levitt, Ed (October 1971). Johnny Vander Meer Recalls His Double No-Hitters. Baseball Digest. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- "1942 All-Star Game". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "Baseball in Wartime – Johnny Vander Meer". BaseballinWartime.com. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
- "Navy Is to discharge Johnny Vander Meer". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. December 19, 1945. p. 2. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- Bullock, Steven R. (2004). Playing for Their Nation: Baseball and the American Military during World War II. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 107–108. ISBN 0-8032-1337-9.
- "Vander Meer Sold to Cubs By Cincinnati". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. February 11, 1950. p. 20. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "Vander Meer Again Hurls No-Hitter". The Dispatch. Associated Press. July 16, 1952. p. 6. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Amazing on-field feats well within reach". ESPN. August 5, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
- "Johnny Vander Meer minor league managerial record". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- "Double No-Hit Johnny Vander Meer is dead at 82". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Associated Press. October 7, 1997. p. 7. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball Reference, or Fangraphs, or Baseball Reference (Minors), or Retrosheet
- Johnny Vander Meer at Find a Grave