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  • Johnny Vander Meer

    Johnny Vander Meer is perhaps best known for throwing two consecutive no-hitters in 1938. Despite going only 119-121 in his 13-year career, that feat catapulted him into legendary status, so much so that he was on the Hall of Fame ballot for 12 years, receiving as much as 29.8% of the vote.

    Though he had a losing record, he was a solid pitcher outside of his historically significant performance. He won 15 or more games five times, led the league in strikeouts and K/9 IP three years in a row, paced the loop in H/9 IP twice and games started once, completed at least 20 games twice, was a four-time All-Star and received MVP votes four times. He even had a 0.00 ERA in his postseason career, though he pitched only one game (three innings) in the playoffs. His team, the Reds, won the Series that year (1940).

    His black ink and grey ink are decent as well, at 17 and 116, respectively. Ranked at #234, he is ahead of Firpo Marberry, Cliff Lee and Mike Hampton, but behind Bob Buhl, Bill Sherdel and Andy Benes on the Fan EloRater.

    What do you think about Johnny Vander Meer? Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Did he have Hall of Fame potential?

    *Fun fact: from May 27 to June 19, 1938, he was 6-0 with a 0.65 ERA in six starts, allowing only 17 hits in 55 innings, while striking out 35 batters. His two no-hitters came on June 11 and June 15 of that year. From May 27 to June 28, he won eight straight starts, completing seven of them.
    24
    Yes
    0.00%
    0
    No
    75.00%
    18
    Maybe
    0.00%
    0
    Not a Hall of Famer, but he had Hall of Fame potential
    25.00%
    6
    Last edited by Cowtipper; 10-19-2012, 09:04 PM.

  • #2
    From what I've heard of him, I'd say he had the potential. Had control problems though, if I recall correctly.
    “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil.” Walter Lippmann

    "Fill in any figure you want for that boy (Mantle). Whatever the figure, it's a deal." - Branch Rickey

    Comment


    • #3
      Here's a quote about Vander Meer from "Stan Musial: The Man's Own Story":

      Stan Musial: "One of the toughest I ever hit against. An extremely hard thrower and wild. His ball moved up and in on a lefthander and you didn't know where the ball was going."
      “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil.” Walter Lippmann

      "Fill in any figure you want for that boy (Mantle). Whatever the figure, it's a deal." - Branch Rickey

      Comment


      • #4
        That was probably one of the hottest stretches of all time and Vander Meer had some solid seasons, but he is most definitely not a Hall of Famer.

        Comment


        • #5
          OK, but we have to put Harvey Haddix in, too.
          They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

          Comment


          • #6
            Johnny Vander Meer was famous because of a fluke accomplishment; the two (2) consecutive no-hitters. I wonder if he holds the record for most consecutive hitless innings; it would be possible to have more hitless innings consecutively if a no hitter was in the middle of the hitless streak; I believe the max you could get to is 26 1/3 innings without a 2nd no-hitter.
            "I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. All will be suspended and I don't care if it wrecks the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another. The National League will go down the line with Robinson whatever the consequences. You will find if you go through with your intention that you have been guilty of complete madness."

            NL President Ford Frick, 1947

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
              OK, but we have to put Harvey Haddix in, too.
              Haddix is fairly Vander Meer-esque. Known for one incredible feat, but he also had a really solid career wrapped around it. Astounding singular acts have their benefits and their disadvantages. Sure, they elevate some players that wouldn't get as much recognition into more recognizable spheres, but they also make people forget about the rest of the careers these players had.

              Haddix pitched his legendary game--but he also won 136 games in his career and he was an All-Star three times. As we know from above, Vander Meer tossed two no-hitters in a row, but he was a four-time All-Star. Charley Root won 201 games in his career, but he gave up Babe Ruth's called shot, so people remember him for that. And perhaps most notoriously of all, Bill Buckner had 2,700+ hits in a 22-year career, yet he gets remembered for a ball rolling through his legs.

              Comment


              • #8
                I was reading through Donald Honig's The All-Star Game, and came across Vander Meer's ASG success. The guy pitched in 3 of the above mentioned All-Star Games, and only allowed one unearned run. He started and won the game in 1938, going 3 scoreless innings and striking out 1. He didn't pitch in 1939, though he was selected. He ran up a very fine stretch in his final 2 appearances in the Midsummer Classic, going 3 shutout innings with 4 Ks in 1942 and pitching 2.2 innings (with the 1 unearned run scoring) in 1943 with 6 strikeouts! For his brief All-Star Game career, Johnny ran up a pitching line of:

                1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 G, 1 GS, 8.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0.692 WHIP

                Looking at the game breakdowns on baseball-reference.com, here is who Johnny faced in those 3 All-Star appearances:

                1938 - NL 4, AL 1 (W - Johnny Vander Meer; L - Lefty Gomez; SV - Mace Brown)
                Top of 1st Inning
                Mike Kreevich - out, fly ball to CF
                Charlie Gehringer - out, ground ball P-1B
                Earl Averill - out, ground ball 2B-1B

                In the National's half of the first, Stan Hack led off with a single, Billy Herman reached on an error (SS) with Hack taking 3B, Ival Goodman struck out looking, and Joe Medwick scored Hack with a SF to CF. Vander Meer came on in the second leading 1-0.

                Top of 2nd Inning
                Jimmie Foxx - strikeout swinging
                Joe DiMaggio - out, ground ball P-1B
                Bill Dickey - out, ground ball 2B-1B

                Top of 3rd Inning
                Joe Cronin - single
                Buddy Lewis - out, fly ball CF
                Lefty Gomez - out, ground ball 2B-1B, Cronin to 2B
                Mike Kreevich - out, pop up 2B

                1939 - Did Not Play

                1942 - AL 3, NL 1 (W - Spud Chandler; L - Mort Cooper; SV - Al Benton)
                The AL scored 3 runs off Mort Cooper in the first, Lou Boudreau led off with a HR to LF, Tommy Henrich doubled, Ted Williams fly out to LF-CF, Joe DiMaggio ground out 3B-1B (Henrich to 3B) and Rudy York HR to RF (that Honig said on page 50, "sliced a low shot down the right-field line into those always-obliging Polo Grounds foul-line bleachers."). Cooper shut down the AL over the next two innings, and Spud Chandler kept the NL scoreless over his 3 innings of work to that time (4 overall, Benton came in and pitched the final 5 innings for the AL). Score was 3-0, AL, when Vander Meer came in to shut down the AL from innings 4-6.

                Top of 4th Inning
                Rudy York - strikeout swinging
                Joe Gordon - strikeout looking
                Ken Keltner - out, fly ball SS

                Top of 5th Inning
                Birdie Tebbetts - out, foul fly ball C
                Bob Johnson - single to LF
                Lou Boudreau - FC, ground ball P-2B, Johnson out at 2B
                Tommy Henrich - strikeout swinging

                Top of 6th Inning
                Ted Williams - out, fly ball deep CF (CF-RF)
                Joe DiMaggio - single to 1B
                Rudy York - FC 3B, DiMaggio safe on E-4 (catch) at 2B, York safe at 1B
                Joe Gordon - strikeout swinging
                Ken Keltner - out, pop up 3B

                1943 AL 5, NL 3 (W - Dutch Leonard, L - Mort Cooper)
                Again, Johnny followed Mort Cooper, and Cooper got roughed up to start the game. Mort only went 2.1 innings and gave up 4 R (all earned) and was relieved by Vander Meer in the third with a man on. Here is Honig's writeup about the early part of the game that went sour for Cooper, but began Vander Meer's amazing final All-Star Game appearance where he ended up striking out 6 AL batters in 2.2 IP (page 54):

                National League Manager Billy Southworth of the Cardinals started his ace, Mort Cooper, and for the second year in a row the big righthander had his problems. After the Nationals had taken a one-run lead in the first inning (the run was driven in by the Cardinals' Stan Musial, playing in the first of his 24 consecutive All-Star Games), the Americans soon began their assault against Cooper.

                In the bottom of the second, Cooper walked the Browns' Chet Laabs and the Senators' Jake Early. This is how you spell trouble in capital letters, and the Red Sox's Bobby Doerr drove the point home - along with three runs - when he bashed an All-Star Game souvenir into the left-field stands, giving the Americans a 3-1 lead and probably making Cooper wonder if the honor of being there was worth the aggravation that seemed to accompany it. In the third inning, consecutive doubles by Cleveland's Ken Keltner and Detroit's Dick Wakefield made Southworth sigh and a call for Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer was only one batter away.

                The Reds' lefthander proceeded to end the inning by striking out Detroit's Rudy York and St. Louis' Laabs on the way to a dynamite performance. In 2.2 innings, Vander Meer struck out six batters, walked one, allowed two hits and yielded an unearned run in one of the most impressive mound displays in All-Star history. In the fifth inning, when he was nicked for the unearned run, Vander Meer struck out the side.


                Bottom of the 3rd Inning
                Rudy York - strikeout swinging
                Chet Laabs - strikeout swinging

                Bottom of the 4th Inning
                Jake Early - strikeout swinging
                Bobby Doerr - single to LF
                Hal Newhouser - double play ground ball (bunt), P-SS-2B (that looks a little unorthodox, maybe he tagged Prince Hal and threw to SS who couldn't make the play and the 2B did, bad throw or dropped catch and 2B was there to apply the tag? I don't know, no mention on the website or in the book.)

                Bottom of the 5th Inning
                George Case - walk
                Ken Keltner - strikeout swinging
                Dick Wakefield - strikeout swinging
                Vern Stephens - single to LF, Case to 3B
                Rudy York - (Botched play on stolen base attempt?) Verbatim from baseball-reference: "Baserunner Advance; Case Scores/Safe on E4 (catch)/unER; Stephens to 2B."
                Rudy York - strikeout swinging

                Looks like Johnny Vander Meer struck out Rudy York 3 times in ASG play, Joe Gordon twice, and that is just about half his strikeouts in the 3 ASG he appeared in! Got big Double X too for his first, that had to feel good!
                "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Herr28 View Post
                  Hal Newhouser - double play ground ball (bunt), P-SS-2B (that looks a little unorthodox, maybe he tagged Prince Hal and threw to SS who couldn't make the play and the 2B did, bad throw or dropped catch and 2B was there to apply the tag? I don't know, no mention on the website or in the book.)
                  On bunts with a man on first, teams routinely execute the "wheel play"; the 1b and 3b charge, the SS covers second base, and the 2b covers first.

                  It was probably a hard bunt right back to Vander Meer, who threw to the shortstop covering second, who relayed to the second baseman covering first (since the first baseman charged towards home plate and thus was not in the vicinity).

                  Originally posted by Herr28 View Post
                  Rudy York - (Botched play on stolen base attempt?) Verbatim from baseball-reference: "Baserunner Advance; Case Scores/Safe on E4 (catch)/unER; Stephens to 2B."
                  Probably a double steal where the second baseman got handcuffed from the throw from home, dropped the ball, and both players advance. Case was lightning quick, so trying to advance him from home with a decoy steal of second was a high percentage play that worked.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    On Vander Meer and the HOF -- the knee jerk reaction is that all he ever did was throw the two no-hitters. On a closer look, he's better than that.

                    He was a four-time All-Star, led the NL in strikeouts three straight seasons (and in walks twice), played on one WS winning squad, and won 119 games. That's a pretty fair career there.

                    Additionally, it should be noted that he spent his age 29 and 30 seasons in the Navy during WWII. He enlisted in March 1944, after his second consecutive seasons leading both leagues in strikeouts in 1942 and 1943, as well as posting ERAs under 3 from 1942-44. He was discharged in December 1945, and after his stint in the service his K-rate declined permanently and he was never the same kind of dominant pitcher.

                    It seems a fair guess that if JVM's career were not paused by war, he'd probably have around 150 wins, and perhaps more if one supposes that his talent wouldn't have atrophied so much absent the interruption.

                    Is that enough to make him a HOFer? Probably not. Even with 150-175 wins, he'd still have a winning percentage that was pretty close to .500, and that's not a profile that gets one to Cooperstown. He never really conquered the wildness that hindered his ability to be consistently effective in the way an ace pitcher ought to be.

                    On the other hand, it's clear that JVM was an absolutely overwhelming pitcher when his control was working. I imagine him as being like a Sudden Sam McDowell, or Nolan Ryan with the Angels, or an early career Randy Johnson, before Big Unit overcame his own control issues. He had the kind of stuff where he could (and did) throw a no-hitter on any given start. If nothing else, he was good enough to be worth remembering, and since he in fact had the two straight no-nos, his memory endures.

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                    • #11
                      JVM was:

                      426th in wins
                      410th in ERA+
                      329th in pitcher's WAR
                      799th in winning %
                      "It's better to look good, than be good."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        As a kid I was always perplexed by the consistent 25% of the BBWAA who would always vote for JVM every year. Back to back no hitters is incredible. The rest of the career, 119-121 3.44 is respectable, nothing more. In his final year of voting in 1970 JVM hit his high water mark in voting-29%, finishing ahead of 7 eventual HOFers including 2 pitchers, Newhouser and Lemon.

                        The other pitcher from that era whose HOF support astounded me was Don Larsen. Aside from the 56 WS perfecto, he was 81-91, 3.78. Always seemed to get at least around 7%. His best year in balloting was 1979 when he had 12%, finishing ahead of such notable position players as Mazeroski, Ken Boyer, Elston Howard and Flood, and these pitchers: Newcombe [1956 MVP & CYA] Burdette, 203-144 3.66 [1958 WS MVP] Law,162-147 3.44 [1960 CYA] Pappas, 209 W 3.40, McClain 131-91 [2 CYA & 1 MVP] and Maloney,134-84 3.14.

                        I checked to see what a couple of other notable post season stars from NY baseball in the 50’s did in the HOF voting. Bobby Thomson, besides hitting the HR heard round the world, did make 3 AS teams, had over 1000 RBI for career and had 4 100 RBI seasons. His best HOF vote total was 4.6.

                        Podres, besides pitching Brooklyn to their only WS win, was 148-166 3.68. He was an excellent WS pitcher, 4-1, 2.11. 6 AS teams. Never even got 1% in HOF voting.

                        Did Larsen pick up a lot of bar tabs for sportswriters?
                        It Might Be? It Could Be?? It Is!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've never understand why some players have fared good in the HOF voting while others just get ingnored. By faring good, is lasting in the ballot a lot without getting enshrined, while others, better players are plain ignored. For example,

                          Pepper Martin lasted 15 years in the ballot, peaking with 17.3% in 1958. Charlie Grimm? 11 years. Hank Gowdy? 17 years!!!! (That must be Frisch's doing). Bucky Walters? 13 years. (He's better than Van Der Meer at least). Marty Marion? 12 years. Allie Reynolds? 13 years. Mel Harder? 11 years. (He has one of the best cases around this list) and other notables (Al Dark, Mickey Vernon, Don Newcombe, Tony Oliva, etc...).

                          And Santo was one and gone if not for a special case. And Whitaker, Grich and Simmons were one and done.
                          "I am not too serious about anything. I believe you have to enjoy yourself to get the most out of your ability."-
                          George Brett

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cougar View Post
                            On bunts with a man on first, teams routinely execute the "wheel play"; the 1b and 3b charge, the SS covers second base, and the 2b covers first.

                            It was probably a hard bunt right back to Vander Meer, who threw to the shortstop covering second, who relayed to the second baseman covering first (since the first baseman charged towards home plate and thus was not in the vicinity).

                            Probably a double steal where the second baseman got handcuffed from the throw from home, dropped the ball, and both players advance. Case was lightning quick, so trying to advance him from home with a decoy steal of second was a high percentage play that worked.
                            Cougar, you are the man. I am a moron. Yeah you're right, for some reason that didn't pop into my mind when I was transcribing the info from one screen to the next. I only had a vision of Johnny tagging the batter/runner and throwing to second - for whatever reason. Insult to injury, I play second base for my team in Austin and we execute that play, though I have never seen a double play pulled on a bunt unless it was caught in the air. Your explanation makes so much more sense than the visual image I had in my mind when typing it out! I guess my wild imagination worked against me that time, but you certainly cleared things up!
                            "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Herr28 View Post
                              Cougar, you are the man. I am a moron. Yeah you're right, for some reason that didn't pop into my mind when I was transcribing the info from one screen to the next. I only had a vision of Johnny tagging the batter/runner and throwing to second - for whatever reason. Insult to injury, I play second base for my team in Austin and we execute that play, though I have never seen a double play pulled on a bunt unless it was caught in the air. Your explanation makes so much more sense than the visual image I had in my mind when typing it out! I guess my wild imagination worked against me that time, but you certainly cleared things up!
                              Thank you Herr28. For what it's worth, the wheel play is just an educated guess; for all I know for certain, the play was totally Keystone Kops as you imagined it.

                              Indeed, a wacky play is even more likely since it was an All-Star game; the infielders hadn't practiced together before the day the game was played, making a maneuver like the wheel play harder to properly execute.

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