Tag Archives: Leo Durocher

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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From Sulphur Dell to World Series Hero: Dusty Rhodes

Quick, name the Most Valuable Player of the 1954 World Series. Yes, that one, the one in which Willie Mays makes that miracle catch and throw.

It is late in Game One of the 1954 World Series.  Played at the cavernous Polo Grounds in New York, Cleveland Indians first baseman Vic Wertz crushes a fly ball to deep centerfield.

There is one out in the eighth inning, the score is tied 2-2, and with two runners on base the drive is certainly going to send in two runs, and possibly three, as Giants centerfielder Willie Mays turns towards the wall to make a play.

Mays makes an over-the-shoulder catch that not only robs Wertz of an extra-base hit, but Mays’ unbelievable throw to the infield sends the runners scurrying back to their bases. Cleveland’s Larry Doby is able to tag up and move to third, but Al Rosen holds up at first base. The next batter is walked, but the Giants are able to get two more outs without allowing a run.

The score remains tied into the bottom of the tenth when Mays walks and steals second, Hank Thompson is walked intentionally, and with one out Giants manager Leo Durocher sends in a pinch hitter for Monte Irvin. James Lamar “Dusty” Rhodes steps up to the plate and wallops a three-run homer off future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon to lead New York to a 5-2 win.

The next day Rhodes pinch hits for Irvin again and delivers a single to drive in Mays. Remaining in the game to play left field, Rhodes hits a home run off of Early Wynn, another future Hall of Famer, to help ensure the win in Game Two as the Giants beat Cleveland 3-1.

The Series moved to the Indians Municipal Stadium for Game Three. With the Giants ahead 1-0 in the third inning, once again Durocher calls on Rhodes to pinch hit for Irvin. With the bases load he delivers a single that scores Don Mueller and Willie Mays and adding to the Giants lead 3-1. Staying in and playing left field, Rhodes is intentionally walked in the fourth inning with New York ahead by a score of 4-0. He strikes out in his last two plate appearances but the Giants win 6-2 and take a 3-0 lead in the Series.

Rhodes does not play in Game Four, as the Giants quickly take a 7-0 lead and win by a final score of 7-4. Dusty RhodesEven though the Indians had won a record 111 games to capture the American League pennant, the Giants take the series in four games. The Giants are 1954 World Champions!

For the Series Rhodes stats total a .667 batting average, two homers and seven RBIs.

“The Catch” becomes one of the most memorable events in all of baseball history; we’ve seen it over-and-over in film and pictures. One sportswriter said, “It would have been a home run in any other park, including Yellowstone.”

So the answer is Willie Mays, right? Well, no. There was no official World Series MVP until 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Johnny Podres won the award.

But in the mind of Giants fans everywhere, it was Rhodes. And there is a Nashville connection.

The 6-ft., 178-pound left-handed hitter had played five seasons with Chicago Cubs minor league affiliates. At the end of the 1951 season the Nashville baseball club purchased Rhodes from the Rock Hill, South Carolina club of the Tri-State League.

A line-drive pull hitter, Rhodes would fit well in Nashville’s lineup. Taking advantage of the short right-field “dump” at Sulphur Dell, Rhodes delivered, too.  After 82 games the 25-year-old led the Southern Association in batting with a .357 average. His 114 hits included 14 homers, 4 triples, and 27 doubles with 62 RBIs and 64 runs.

He was purchased for $25,000 by the Giants and reported to the major league team in Cincinnati on July 13 and his non-descript seven-year major league career began. Used primarily as a pinch hitter for Monte Irvin, his statistics were not impressive.

The 1954 post season was a different story.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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