Records are made to be broken. True, except for one major league baseball record that will never be broken—Johnny Vander Meer’s accomplishment of pitching back-to-back no-hitters in 1938. It was headlined on Thursday, June 16, 1938 as the “GREATEST FEAT IN GAME’S HISTORY.”
The story of the two no-hitters read like a Hollywood screenplay: Handsome, rookie pitcher from small town America achieves the miraculous achievement during first-ever night game at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. Babe Ruth himself attended. Mom and Dad and 500 fans from Vander Meer’s hometown in Midland Park, NJ, watch every pitch nervously. Even the opposing Brooklyn Dodger fans start to cheer Vander Meer on in the seventh inning realizing they are witnessing baseball history. And just before the end, Vander Meer loses control in the ninth and walks the bases loaded—but he manages to get out of the jam and the Vander Meeracle is etched into baseball immortality!
Both of the teams Vandy beat in his two No Hit games, the Boston Bees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, once owned the contract rights to him. During his next outing, he went on to set a record for hitless innings with twenty-one and two-thirds… amazing!
Johnny threw another no hitter 14 years later, at the age of 37, pitching for Tulsa in the Texas League. He beat Beaumont 12-0. As a teenager, in the sandlots of Paterson, New Jersey, Johnny pitched five no hitters in one season, three of them consecutively (two for the Midland Park Rangers and one for the Prospects).
Vandy was a four time All Star. The southpaw had 1,294 strike outs. His 13-year career pitching record was 119-121 ERA of 3.44. Johnny’s Dutch parents considered baseball “a loafer’s paradise.” He died on October 6, 1997 at the age of 82.