Double No-Hit: Johnny Vander Meers Historic Night under the Lights
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Seventy-five years ago, on June 11 and 15, Johnny Vander Meer became the only major league pitcher to throw back-to-back no-hit, no-run games. 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, and their wait for another would be just four days. The 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-ever night game 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 times. Among the nearly 39, fans that night were more than from Vander Meer's hometown of Midland Park, N. They came by the busload from the town of 5, and presented Vander Meer with a gold watch in a pregame ceremony. Vander Meer's parents, sister and girlfriend were also there. Years later, Vander Meer said of being feted by his hometown, "That is the jinx right there.
You usually don't get by the third inning. Before Vander Meer took the mound, he got to meet Babe Ruth, an invited guest for the first game under lights. Later that month, the Dodgers hired "The Babe" as a drawing card and coach in a short-lived experiment. When Vander Meer finally got to pitch that night, he started racking up zeroes, just like in his previous start.
Unbreakable: Midland Park's Johnny Vander Meer's record of back-to-back no-hitters endures
I was probably throwing the ball 95, 96, 97 miles an hour," Vander Meer said in a interview. Reds second baseman Lonny Frey and Dodgers outfielder Ernie Koy disputed the claim by some that poor stadium lighting aided Vander Meer. I wasn't alone," said Koy. As the game progressed, the cheering section from Vander Meer's hometown witnessed a transformation among the formerly hostile Dodgers fans nearby -- they, too, got behind Midland Park's favorite son.
Ten years ago, Vander Meer's friend Dick Jeffer said, "They knew we were from Midland Park, and they were [yelling] 'you're gonna get beat,' and they were all hopped up because of the first night game, but the tune changed about the sixth inning when they started to root for Vander Meer because they realized what they were seeing would be part of history.
Vander Meer, however, suffered a lack of precision that was common in his earlier outings.
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Frey, who was 92 back in and, at the time, Vander Meer's last living teammate from either no-hitter, told ESPN, "Johnny Vander Meer was a little wild at times, and I'd say plenty wild at times. All nerves were taut as Vandy pitched to Ernie Koy. With the count one and one, Ernie sent a bounder to third baseman Lew Riggs, who was so careful in making the throw to catcher Ernie Lombardi that a double play wasn't possible.
Leo Durocher, so many times a hitter in the pinches, was the last hurdle for Vander Meer, and the crowd groaned as he swung viciously to line a foul high into the right field stands.
But a moment later Leo swung again, the ball arched lazily toward short center field and Harry Craft camped under it for the put-out that brought unique distinction to the young hurler. It brought, also, a horde of admiring fans onto the field, with Vandy's teammates ahead of them to hug and slap Johnny on the back and then to protect him from the mob as they struggled toward the Red dugout. The fans couldn't get Johnny, but a few moments later they got his father and mother, who had accompanied a group of citizens from Vandy's home town of Midland Park, N.
The elder Vander Meers were completely surrounded and it required nearly fifteen minutes before they could escape. The night game was the first ever played at Ebbets Field. Jesse Owens ran pregame sprints as a sideshow.
Johnny Vander Meer
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