Friday, March 9, 2012

Johnny Vander Meer's third no-hitter

Uncommon commons. Based on contemporary accounts from The Sporting News; tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they help bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.I consider myself more than a casual baseball historian, especially of the era of my greatest baseball card interest, the 1950s.

That's why I was surprised to learn that the only pitcher of back-to-back major league no-hitters had a third no-hitter . . . 14 years later after he had returned to the minor leagues.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer is justly famous for having thrown no-hitters on June 11, 1938, against the Boston Braves, 3-0, then in his next game, June 15, the very first night game ever played in Ebbets Field, no-hitting the Dodgers in a 6-0 win.

In 1952, the Dutch Master had been out of the major leagues for a year, and was pitching for the Reds' Class AA Texas League farm club in Tulsa.

On July 15, against Beaumont, Vander Meer threw his third professional no-hit game, a 12-0 win that brought his season's record to 6-7.

Only five Roughneck batters reached base in the game, three on walks, one on an error and one hit batsman.

There were only 335 paid admissions at Beaumont that night to witness that bit of baseball history.

The feat was of special interest to Beaumont manager Harry Craft. Craft was in center field behind Vandy on June 15, 1938, in Brooklyn, and caught Leo Durocher's fly ball for the last out.

Later in the 1952 season, Vander Meer ran up a string of 22 scoreless innings, but his pitching heroics were not enough to get the Oilers above 6th place in the league that year. The 37-year-old lefty finished the season with an 11-10 record.

In 1953, Vander Meer began a decade-long run managing for Reds farm clubs in Class B and D leagues, occasionally taking a turn on the mound as late as 1955.

Next time I'll tell you about another major league pitcher with two no-hitters in a season who topped Vander Meer by having four no-hitters in the minors.

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