June 15 marks the date that Reds lefthanded pitcher Johnny Vander Meer hurled the second of his record setting two no-hit games.
Vander Meer had no-hit the Boston Braves at Crosley Field, 3-0, on June 11, walking four and striking out three. Catcher Ernie Lombardi had picked off two of those baserunners. Four days later, in the first night game ever at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, no one would have expected Vander Meer to repeat his outstanding performance from his previous start.
The 6-0 no-no didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come so easy according to Ã¢â‚¬Å“Day by Day in Cincinnati Reds HistoryÃ¢â‚¬Â by Floyd Conner and John Snyder. According to Conner and Snyder:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“A crowd of over 40,000 witnessed the event, including Vander MeerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s parents and about 500 fans from his hometown of Midland Park, New Jersey. Vander Meer stepped to the mound in the ninth inning with a nervous stomach and a chance at immortality. He started the inning easily, taking Buddy HassettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s grounder and tagging him for the out. Then he ran into real trouble walking Babe Phelps, Cookie Lavagetto, and Dolph Camilli to load the bases. Ernie Koy then sent a grounder to third baseman Lew Riggs, who threw to catcher Ernie Lombardi for the force at home. Leo Durocher ended the game by lifting a fly ball to center fielder Harry Craft and Vander MeerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second no-hitter was official.Ã¢â‚¬Â
According to Total BaseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Baseball The Biographical EncyclopediaÃ¢â‚¬Â, Vander Meer was even more brilliant than noted here. In the game before his first no-hitter, Vander Meer did not allow a hit for six innings before a batter hit a Ã¢â‚¬Å“bleederÃ¢â‚¬Â into centerfield for a hit in the ninth inning. And, in the game following his second no-hitter with none other than Cy Young in attendance, Vander Meer didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t allow a hit until the fourth inning. Vander Meer went 21 consecutive innings without allowing a hit. Cy YoungÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all-time record is 24 consecutive innings pitched without allowing a hit.
Vander Meer was only 23, a real phenom in anyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book. He finished the season 15-10 with a 3.12 ERA, including a ten game winning streak. However, in 1939, Total Baseball says Vander Meer returned to the mound after a rain delay, slipped, and tore muscles in his shoulders. He was disabled most of 1939 and spent 1940 in the minors before making his way back to the majors in the war years. From 1941-43, he won more games than any lefthander in the game and led the National League in strikeouts for three consecutive seasons. He also twice led the NL in walks. He was named the 1938 Major League Player of the Year by The Sporting News.
Surprisingly enough, Vander Meer finished his career with a losing record, 119-121, with a 3.44 lifetime ERA. He only allowed 7.7 hits per 9 innings for his entire career and 0.4 home runs per 9 innings. He also once hurled 15 scoreless innings during the longest scoreless tie in major league history, a 19 inning affair in 1946.
It seems all records are meant to be broken, but in this day of six inning starters (by design, not weakness), Vander MeerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s record may never be broken. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been challengedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦in fact, future Vander Meer teammate, Ewell Blackwell, came two outs short of tying the record in 1947.