Tag Archives: Dayton

Vandy was a Vol

Johnny Vander Meer was born on November 2, 1914 to Dutch parents in Prospect, New Jersey, and grew up in Midland Park. Baseball became his love and he found the attention of a Cincinnati Reds scout, signing with Dayton (Class C – Mid-Atlantic League).[1] The next two seasons were spent in Scranton (Class A – NYPL) where he was 18-18.

In his first three years in the Cincinnati Reds farm system he developed arm trouble. In 1936 he was sent to Nashville to consult with Dr. Lee Jensen, a noted sports doctor who determined there was an issue with a muscle in Vander Meer’s back. After therapy and exercises, he was being counted on as a starter for the Vols.

vander-meerIn two-game exhibition series against the St. Louis Browns at Nashville’s Wilson Park, he was starting pitcher on April 7 and appeared as a reliever on April 8. In the first game, a cold and windy affair, after one out he issued walks to four consecutive batters to force in a run before being relieved by Johnny Intlekofer. The Browns won 3-1.

The next day he relieved Junie Barnes in the seventh. Only giving up one hit, Vander Meer gave up five runs in the eighth; for the game, he struck out four, walked five, and hit batter Harlond Clift before being relieved by Ray Davis. Johnny was the losing pitcher.

On April 21, he faced the Atlanta Crackers in his first start for the Vols, another cold affair that was eventually called due to darkness that ended in a 4-4 tie. Continuing to relieve for manager Lance Richbourg, on May 3 Vander Meer was given his second start, this time in Birmingham. He allowed two runs in five innings before being yanked for Red Ahearn.

In Nashville’s Sulphur Dell on May 9, Johnny started against New Orleans, but did not finish in the Vols 15-8 trouncing of the Pelicans. Having appeared in 31 innings in eight games but with no wins, he started against the Travelers in Little Rock on May 19, but did not last the inning after walking the first three batters he faced. He was the losing pitcher.

With 25 bases on balls in 32 innings, his arm control was beginning to show. By June 1 he was gone, sent to Durham (Class B, Piedmont League). Still under contract to Nashville, Vander Meer found his curve ball under the tutelage of manager Johnny Gooch, and won 19 games while losing only 6 with a 2.65 ERA.

Most impressive were his 272 strikeouts in 194 innings. He struck out 20 in one game, 19 and 18 in two others. “Vandy” was named The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year for 1936.

Sold by the Vols to Cincinnati, he was invited to spring training and spent the season between the Reds where he was 3-4 with a 3.84 ERA, and Syracuse (Class AA – International League) where he was 5-11 with a 3.34 ERA.

He was an All Star for Cincinnati in 1938 and threw consecutive no-hitters, the only player to ever accomplish the feat. His first came against the Boston Bees on June 11 in Cincinnati and the second was accomplished against the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 15, the first night game ever played at Ebbets Field.

Four days later, on June 19 in Boston, he no-hit the Braves until one out in the fourth inning when Debs Garms hit a single. The streak ended at 21 1/3 innings, which included the batter Vander Meer retired in the game before his first no-hitter.[2]

Named The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year that season, Johnny was also named to the All Star team in 1939, 1942, and 1943.

His lifetime 119-121 record included 1,294 strikeouts, and he led the league in that category for three consecutive seasons; 1941 (202), 1942 (186), and 1943 (174).

Upon his release from the Cleveland Indians in 1951, he pitched in 24 games for Tulsa and won 11, losing 10. But on July 15, 1952, 14 years and one month after his record performance, he hurled a no-hitter in a Texas League game against Beaumont.

Oddly enough, Beaumont manager Harry Craft was centerfielder for the Reds and made the final putout in the second no-hitter by Vander Meer. The ball was hit by future Hall of Famer Leo Durocher of Brooklyn.

Upon retiring from active playing, he managed in the minors for 10 seasons where his teams won a total of 761 games and lost 719. Future major leaguers Jim Maloney, Vic Davalillo, Jack Baldschun, Lee May, Jim Wynn, Ed Kranepool, and Pete Rose played for “The Dutch Master”.

When his baseball career was over he worked for a brewing company and enjoyed fishing. Vander Meer passed away on October 6, 1997 in Tampa, Florida, and was buried with a baseball in his left hand.[3]

SOURCES

Ancestry.com

Baseball-reference.com

Nashville Tennessean

Newspapers.com

Retrosheet.org

Sabr.org

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

 

[1] Johnson, James W. Johnny Vander Meer, SABR Baseball Biography Project. Retrieved from ww.sabr.org

[2] Goldstein, Richard. “Johnny Vander Meer, 82, No-Hit Master, Dies”, New York Times, October 7, 1997

[3] Johnson, James W. Ibid.

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First Nashville Professional Games in 1884

Area amateur baseball had flourished since the end of the Civil War, and the “Nashvilles” were the premier local team. But with the expansion of professional ball clubs throughout the south, it was necessary to stock a club with players who played for pay.

Paying players moved a team a step closer to winning championships, which up to that time had been mythical (such as “the champions of Tennessee”) with no bearing on anything except for proper boasting at the local tavern and in newsprint. But as professional baseball was growing, challenges to championship caliber teams would necessitate an upgrade in the roster.

The only way, was to pay. Improving the quality of play would also bring a successful club to the attention to those who were considering forming a southern league, as there were moves to organize leagues across the country.

An article in the Nashville Daily American on October 9, 1884, described the formation of a professional baseball team for Nashville, the first for the city.

“Recently a stock company has been formed of reliable and business men of the city, who have decided to get a team for Nashville of professional base-ball players who can meet the best clubs of the country and cope with them in a game of which the audiences would not leave the ground disappointed or disgusted.

“On Monday of this week the stock company had a meeting, decided definitely to get such a team, and immediately sent Mr. Will C. Bryan, whose base-ball record is familiar to all who know of base-ball in the city, to Cincinnati to consummate arrangements with players with whom he has for some time been in correspondence. At the same meeting the stockholders decided to call the club “The American” Base ball nine, in honor of the daily which bears that name. Mr. Bryan was also elected Manager of the new club, and was instructed to hire first-class material, regardless of cost.”[1]

So off went Will Bryan, not only to engage the services of players, but also to schedule a game with a top-quality club to introduce their brand of the game to Nashville’s spectators. He engaged the Cincinnati Unions to visit Nashville right away, as a game was scheduled for Friday, October 10.

The Unions were also known as the Outlaw Reds (their owner was Justus Thorner who had previously owned the Red Stockings) and had played in the Union Association during the season. The 12-team league included the St. Louis Maroons, Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Cowboys, and Wilmington Quicksteps.

Considering that Nashville held potential as a member of the Union league for 1885, Thorner agreed to take his club south, and on October 10 the first professional game for a Nashville ball club was played at the fairgrounds.

A banner across the top of the American’s page 4 heralded to event.

nashville-daily-american-10-10-1884-nashville-base-ball-club-cincinnati-unions-10-10-1884

Bryan secured the majority of this new ball club from a distance away, and the newspaper gave detail about each one.

“The “American” Club is composed of the following material: Baker, the pitcher, is from Springfield, where he has made a very fine record…Lang, the catcher, was for awhile one of the crack battery of the Atlantas, but left them for a more prominent position…Collins, who holds first base, is taken from the Louisvilles…Bryan, who is well known to Nashvillians, will play on second base…Reccius, one of the most widely known players in the country, has been engaged from the Trentons and will play third base…Meyers, of the Portsmouth Blue, will play in the position of short stop.

“Rhue, the left fielder, comes from the Springfield Club, Hungier in center from the St. Louis Club, and Hellman in right from the Terre Hautes.”[2]

Noting that the local club had not practiced together beforehand, the American reported an audience of between 1,250 and 1,500 persons watched them lose to the visitors by a score of 6-3. The Unions had to score three runs in the eighth inning and two in the ninth to secure the win after falling behind 3-1. The game took 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete. Game rules included “seven balls being required to give a batter his base, and fouls being out on first bounce.[3]

nashville-daily-american-10-11-1884-box-score-nashville-base-ball-club-cincinnati-unions-10-10-1884

The next day’s game was not a close one. Nashville scored two runs in the eighth inning and lost 11-2.

nashville-daily-american-10-12-1884-box-score-nashville-base-ball-club-cincinnati-unions-10-11-1884

Without no announcement about Nashville’s chances in the Union Association (the league, in fact, folded after playing only one season), another club, the “Georgetowns” concluded the Americans’ three-game home stand by winning over the locals 4-1.

Losing three games gave reason for Nashville to reorganize its roster. Added to the lineup were new players who would become the nucleus of the Americans first team in the newly-formed Southern League for 1885. Joining Will Bryan and Norm Baker would be Charles Marr, Ollie Beard, and Billy Crowell of the Evansvilles.

Potential games were announced in the American to conclude the 1884 exhibition season.

“Georgetowns, Oct. 19; Cincinnatis, American Association, Oct. 26 and 27, Dayton, Champions of Ohio State League, Nov. 2 and 3, Kansas City Unions, Nov. 22 and 23, Louisville, Nov. 29 and 30.”[4]

The article concludes with high expectations to be met by the new professionals.

“…the Nashville public may expect some excellent base-ball continues.”[5]

PostScript: Interestingly enough, one of the Cincinnati Unions players in the two games in Nashville, George Bradley, would become manager for Nashville for a short period of time during the 1887 season. Bradley had also pitched during his tenure with the Unions in 1884, winning 25 and losing 15.

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

SOURCES

Baseball-reference.com

Newspapers.com

[1] Nashville Daily American, October 9, 1884, p. 5

[2] Nashville Daily American, October 10, 1884, p. 8

[3] Nashville Daily American, October 11, 1884, p. 4

[4] Nashville Daily American, October 14, 1884, p. 4

[5] Ibid.

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