Cincinnati Red's Johnny
Vander Meer, longtime Tampa resident in his retirement, made instant
history for pitching two back-to-back no hitters against the Dodgers
in a packed Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. It was the first night game
ever played on the East coast.
Long before pitch counts, closers and call-in
shows, a hard-throwing Cincinnati Reds lefty, in his first full
season, achieved what could be baseball's most enduring pitching
feat more than 65 years ago, June 15, 1938. He became the only
major-league pitcher to throw back-to-back no-hit, no-run games.
Meer was born on November 2, 1914, and began his Major League
baseball career on April 22, 1937, with the Cincinnati Reds. Starting
at age 22, he played for 13 seasons on 3 different teams and ended
his big league playing career in 1951.
As for the no hitters: First, the 23-year-old
Vander Meer no-hit the Boston Bees 3-0 at Cincinnati's Crosley
Field. Nobody reached second base as Vander Meer struck out four
and allowed three walks, while facing just one batter over the
minimum. Catcher Ernie Lombardi, a future Hall of Famer, doubled
a man off first on a foul pop and hit a two-run homer to back
Vander Meer's fifth consecutive victory in a winning streak that
would reach nine games. It was the Reds' first no-hitter in 18
years, but their wait for another would be just four days.
Bees once owned the rights to Vander Meer, as did the Dodgers,
his next opponent. It would be a wild night, and not just because
Vander Meer had trouble finding the plate. The Reds were in Brooklyn
for the first night game ever on the East Coast. The Dodgers sold
more tickets than the capacity of Ebbets Field, and fire department
officials had to help clear the aisles and control the overflow
crowd. The game was delayed, forcing Vander Meer to warm up three
Among nearly 39,000 fans that night were more
than 500 from Vander Meer's hometown of Midland Park, N.J. They
came by the busload from the town of 5,000 and presented Vander
Meer with a gold watch in a pregame ceremony.
Vander Meer lived out his retirement years
in a modest home off South Dale Mabry near Bay to Bay. He could
often be seen lunching with friends at Palio's Seafood Restaurant.
He was quiet and somewhat reclusive at the end but always had
time to talk to fans, who remembered his amazing baseball feat
more than 60 years after the fact. He had many friends in the
Tampa Bay area.
He died at his Tampa home October 6, 1997.