Double No-No Equals Yes
As a high school pitcher growing up in small-town New Jersey, Johnny Vander Meer drew plenty of attention. Watching one of the young man’s starts, you never knew what you might see. “They never made a hit off me,” Vander Meer said. “They couldn’t. I walked them all. I could throw hard in those days, but I was terribly wild.” (17, Dutch) Vander Meer settled down to a degree, but his flair for the dramatic never died down all together.
Read Paul Lichtman’s “The Dutch Master: The Life and Times of Johnny Vander Meer“ because:
1. Vander Meer’s story is one of an overcomer.
In 1935, Vander Meer hurt his arm in his first action of the season. Vander Meer would battle arm injuries throughout his career. In that particular season, he posted a 7-10 record with a 5.35 ERA and 90 walks, compared to 88 strikeouts. Walks would hurt him for the balance of his career. Despite on and off arm problems, by 1936, Vander Meer earned the Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year honors.
In the summer of ’37, Vander Meer was pitching for the Cincinnati Reds where he came up against one of the few people he ever had a negative word for, manager Charlie Dressen. In the middle of an unraveling outing, Dressen confronted his pitcher on the mound. Dressen called Vander Meer’s courage into question. This was enough for the pitcher to call it quits with the Reds. When he rejoined the Reds for the following season, his old manager was gone.
Several years later, Vander Meer again triumphed in his comeback bid from World War II.
2. Relive one, or should I say two, of the most famous feats in baseball history.
On June 11, 1938, Cincinnati and Boston met. The Reds would win back to back pennants in 1939 and 1940, the latter leading to a World Series title. The eldest DiMaggio brother, Vince, highlighted the Bees lineup. Casey Stengel used three pinch hitters against Vander Meer in the final frame, but nothing prevented the hurler from Cincy’s first no-no in 19 years.
Immediately, Vander Meer’s hometown of Midland Park, NJ made plans to honor its hero in his next start. Fate made way for Vander Meer again because his next outing came close to home in Brooklyn. Two legends and nearly 750 fans from Midland Park packed the ballpark. Babe Ruth was bidding to become a coach, and who better than the brightest light of the times, Jesse Owens, to mark the stadium’s first night game? Larry McPhail sold so many tickets that police forced fans to leave the overcrowded ballpark. Once those fans left the ballpark, the next report they’d receive came from the newspaper. No live radio broadcast of no-no number two exists. The three New York teams would not allow their games to be broadcast.
3. Lichtman presents Vander Meer’s life with background from the pitcher’s era.
World War I had reached day 63 when Vander Meer was born on Nov. 2, 1914. The year that Vander Meer tossed the two no-hitters marked the debut of the fluorescent lamp, fiber glass and Teflon; Davey O’Brien won the Heisman and the Blackhawks captured the Stanley Cup.
Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.