On June 11 and 15, 1938, the Reds’ Vander Meer becomes the only major league pitcher to hurl consecutive no-hit games. It was Vander Meer’s first professional season (age 23) and the lefty was full of promise. Control problems, however, forced him back to the minors. He quickly made it back to the Reds’ rotation and eventually finished with 119 career wins. He was sometimes quoted after his double no-hit performance (from “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder):
“Somebody might tie it, but I don’t think it will ever be broken.”
Blackwell almost tied the record within a decade of what seemed to be an impossible feat to repeat. 1947 was a spectacular season for Blackwell, nicknamed “The Whip” for his vicious sidearm delivery. For the season, he went 22-8 with a 2.47 ERA, and he led the league with 23 complete games and 193 strikeouts. He finished second in the MVP balloting to Braves third baseman Bob Elliott (there was no Cy Young Award at the time), he won 16 consecutive games, and he pitched a no-hitter. And, he couldn’t bend over fast enough to stop a ground ball between his legs to possibly hurl a consecutive no-hitter.
Blackwell’s no-hitter came on June 18 when he shut out the Braves, 6-0, for his eight consecutive win. He walked four and struck out three. First baseman Babe Young was the offensive star, blasting a pair of three-run home runs to account for all six Reds runs. Young had been a minor star for the New York Giants during World War II before serving three years in the Coast Guard.
Blackwell’s date with destiny came on June 22. Just like Vander Meer nine years earlier, Blackwell’s first no-hitter came against the Boston Braves at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. And, just like Vander Meer, Blackwell’s next start was against the Brooklyn Dodgers, only this time the game was at home in Crosley. Vander Meer’s second no-hitter came at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.
Blackwell held the Dodgers hitless for 8 1/3 innings before second baseman Eddie Stanky bounced a grounder between Blackwell’s legs and into centerfield for a hit. One out later, Jackie Robinson singled, but Carl Furillo grouned out to end the game. Blackwell had to settle for a two-hit 4-0 shutout, his ninth consecutive win.
Overall, Blackwell pitched 19 consecutive hitless innings having last given up a hit on a single to the Giants’ Johnny Mize in the eighth inning on June 14. Vander Meer was still with the team and was on the top step of the duguot ready to congratulate Blackwell if he could finish the no-no. Noodles Hahn, who pitched the first no-hitter for any team in the 20th Century for the Reds in 1900, was also in attendance. Vander Meer’s hitless streak stretched over 21 innings, and he allowed only 20 hits during a 64 inning stretch. The major league record for consecutive hitless innings is 23, set by Cy Young in 1904.
Blackwell was a feared pitcher, one of the most famous Reds’ pitchers of all times, who pitched in six consecutive all-star games. Still, his career record was only 82-78 with a 3.30 ERA. He started the 1947 All-Star game and sported all-star totals of 13 2/3 inning pitched, eight hits allowed, 5 walks, 12 strikeouts, and 1.32 ERA. Still, Blackwell had double digit win seasons only three times in his career as he suffered a number of arm injuries, possibly due to his side-arm snap delivery.