Beyond Rare 3

On June 15, 1938, Johnny Vandermeer stood on the mound in Ebbets Field with two outs in the ninth inning and the bases loaded. Leo Durocher worked the count to 1 and 1 then slammed a deep drive that just curved foul. The next pitch seemed to catch the edge of the plate, but the umpire called it a ball. With the count now 2 and 2, Durocher lofted a soft fly to the center fielder to end the game.

Vandermeer was unaware of it, but he had just pitched his second no hitter in a row. Four days earlier he had no hit the Boston Bees. The second one was not pretty; he walked eight Brooklyn batters. Still, the Robins went hitless and sent Vandermeer into the record book.

No-hit games are not rare. Two or three seem to happen every season, and several pitchers have more than one, including Sandy Koufax with four and Nolan Ryan with seven. Yet, despite their relative frequency, no one except Vandermeer has consecutive hitless games. It took some luck, to be sure, and he came close to never pitching any games. When he was 14, the Dutch Master contracted peritonitis that nearly killed him.

In the game following his second straight no-no, he carried a no hitter into the 4th inning before giving up a single to Debs Garms. In his waning years as a pro, he notched another one in the minor leagues in 1951 for Tulsa in the Texas League.

Vandermeer pitched 13 years in the big leagues, compiling a 3.44 ERA. He won 119 games and lost 121. The eight walks issued in his second no-hitter were not unusual. In 2,104 career innings he walked 1,132 batters.   His similarity score puts him with the likes of Steve Barber, Earl Wilson, Al Downing, and Van Lingle Mungo. Vandermeer died in 1997. He was 82.

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