August 20, 1941: Johnny Vander Meer fires a three-hitter and Elmer Riddle allows only six hits as the Reds shut out the Philadelphia Phillies in both games of a double header.
Vander Meer won the first game, walking four and striking out five in improving his record to 13-10. The Reds scored both runs in the third inning off Phillies starter and loser Lefty Hoerst whose record dropped to 0-6 on the year. Vander Meer also had two of the Reds six hits, driving in one of the two Reds runs and scoring the other himself. Vander Meer finished the season 16-13 with a 2.82 ERA, leading the league with 202 strikeouts. He led the NL in strikeouts each season from 1941-43.
Hoerst never played for the Reds, only the Phillies, but I found his biography on baseball-reference.com rather humorous and would like to share with you. For 1941, Hoerst finished the year 3-10 with a 5.20 ERA. In 1942, he was 4-16, again with a 5.20 ERA. For his career, he finished 10-33 with a 5.17 ERA. Here’s his biography:
Frank “Lefty” Hoerst was a star basketball player at LaSalle University before joining the Philadelphia Phillies in 1940. He played with the club until 1947, missing three seasons while serving in the Navy during World War II , where he served as a gunnery officer. After his playing career ended, he returned to LaSalle as their baseball coach.
An elderly Hoerst good naturedly liked to say, he would rather have lost 20 than 16 (he was 5th in losses with 16 in 1942). The reason: he would be famous.
His first major league victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates nearly caused a riot. He was known as the “Dodger Killer” in 1941 because 2 of his 3 wins were against the World Series bound Dodgers.
He was a standard fastball pitcher with a fair curveball who could not find the plate.
The day he was ready to go away to join the Navy, he was given a “Frank Hoerst” day. He pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals. He could not get anyone out.
On September 2, 1942, he pitched a two hitter that he managed to lose by walking four batters in the 8th inning. The relief pitcher then managed to hit the next two batters.
Hoerst said that nobody taught him anything while he was with the Phillies except for his close friend “Losing Pitcher” Hugh Mulcahy. After leaving the majors, he spend 9 years in the minors and then went to work for a brewery. He became a basketball referee for almost 20 years in high school, college and the NBA.
Hoerst said he was the worst pitcher he ever saw. He might be right.
Please note the irony in the nickname of the player he learned from. Mulcahy pitched nine seasons for the Phillies with a lifetime record of 45-89 with a 4.49 ERA. He lost 20 or more games twice. I think Hoerst was a pretty funny fellow myself.
In the second game, Riddle was just as dominant as Vander Meer was in the first, and had to be as the Reds carried a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning. Vander Meer was dueling Phillies rookie pitcher Rube Melton who allowed only six hits in the game himself, one being a home run to Reds star Frank McCormick.
Riddle improved is record to 14-2 with the win on the way to a 19-9 season. Melton, pitching for the Phillies, finished 1-5 for the year and proceeded to lose 20 games the next season (see Mulcahy and Hoerst above) before being traded to Brooklyn.
The low scoring affairs were typical of Reds manager Bill McKechnie’s teams. McKechnie loved pitching and defense and was less impressed with offense and his teams sported very low on base percentages. It was McKechnie who saved McCormick from the minor leagues. McCormick did not have a power bat, but was an RBI machine. Despite regularly hitting for high batting averages and having a great glove in the minors, McCormick did not make the majors as a starting player until age 27 and finished in the top five in MVP voting his three years in the majors. He won the 1940 MVP award the year the Reds won the World Series.
The 1941 Reds team allowed the fewest runs per game in the National League (3.66), but also scored the third lowest (4.0). The Red starting outfield consisted of Mike McCormick (.723 OPS), Harry Craft (.676 OPS) and Jim Gleeson (.636 OPS). Ernie Koy also had some outfield time (.654 OPS). Meanwhile, in the minors, slugger Hank Sauer, a future MVP, was hitting away but couldn’t field and only received a late season cup of coffee. Sauer, the anti-Frank McCormick, wouldn’t make the majors for good until age 31 (World War II service included), after McKechnie was gone, and immediately hit 35 home runs for the Reds (a new team record), but was traded the next spring. He won the MVP with the Cubs at age 35, when he led the majors with 37 homers and 121 rbi and even hit 41 home runs age 37.
Meanwhile, the 1941 Reds finished in third place, 12 games behind the league champion Brooklyn Dodgers.