When a pitcher with Jake Arrieta’s mad talent throws a no-hitter you can’t help but wonder if, on his next outing he’ll fire another one. Jake threw one last Friday, and after a rainout Wednesday night he took the hill yesterday afternoon against a poor team, the Brewers. He won the game but Vander Meer still remains the only man to throw back-to-back no-hitters. The Cubs’ 7-2 win brought Jake to 5-0, the first Cubs’ starter to open that way in a decade. Greg Maddux did that in 2006. Jake had another record go by the boards when the Brewers scored in the fifth. Pitching at Wrigley he hadn’t given up a run in 52 and 2/3 innings. That’s the longest scoreless streak by a pitcher at Wrigley and the second longest home streak in history. The longest was on the other side of Chicago when Ray Herbert went 54 and 2/3 scoreless at Old Comiskey Park between 1962-63. Jonathan Villar led the game off with a single, so there was no suspense about back-to-back no-nos.
But what do we know about Johnny Vander Meer, the man who did what may never be done again? He was a man of 23 in 1938, from Prospect Park, NJ in the northern part of the state. He was a lefty in just his second big league season in 1938. For a time, between June and October 1938 he was a more famous name than Orson Welles, who was an obscure radio actor until he panicked America with his “War of the Worlds” broadcast for Halloween. After his famous feat Vander Meer would be an All-Star 4 times between 1938 and 1943. His Reds would lose the 1939 World Series and win the Fall Classic a year later. He led his league in strikeouts in 1941, 1942 and 1943. On June 11, 1938 he took the hill in his home ball park, Crosley Field in Cincinnati and no-hit the Boston Braves. 4 days later, he took his turn on the mound at Ebbets Field in the first night game ever played at that famous park. No Dodger could get a hit off him in that game either. An oddity about that game is, years later fans told broadcaster Red Barber that they had heard him broadcast the game from Brooklyn. Barber himself said he never broadcast the game. Between 1934 and 1938, radio broadcasts were not allowed from any stadium in New York during the regular season. Even Western Union was not allowed to send reports by telegraph to other cities when their teams played in New York. So, Barber who was the Reds’ broadcaster knew nothing of the second no-hitter by Vander Meer until it was over. Following 2 years in the Navy, Vander Meer wasn’t the pitcher he had once been. He lasted with the Reds through 1949, then spent a year each with the Cubs and Indians. As fate would have it, Vander Meer was on the Reds’ bench in 1947 when his teammate Ewell Blackwell threw a no-hitter against the Braves and didn’t give up a hit to the Dodgers until the 9th inning of his very next start. In the World Series that year Red Barber was talking on radio about Blackwell’s feat when the Dodgers’ broke up a Yankee bid for a no-hitter in the 9th inning. So, if Arrieta, Kershaw, Greinke or any of the greats of the modern game throw a no-hitter and seek a second, now we know a bit more about the man whose feat they hope to copy.
As the Marlins come off sweeping the Dodgers in a four-game series in Los Angeles, they now have to live without their second baseman, Dee Gordon. The league’s reigning batting king and two-time All-Star gets an 80 games suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy. He has tested positive for performance-enhancing substances and his punishment begins at once. He can’t play at all until July 29, and in the million-to-one chance the Fish could make the playoffs he wouldn’t be allowed to play then either. As late as January he signed a $50 million contract with the Marlins.
The only day game on today’s schedule is underway as we go to press. The Braves finally won a game, so they are now 5-17. They’re facing the Cubs with the game’s best record. Later, the White Sox who were slaughtered by the Orioles last night look to bounce back. The Indians bring out Corey Kluber, the reigning Cy Young winner to face Adam Morgan. He’s replacing Charlie Morton, whose year has ended early owing to a torn hamstring. Morton was expected to be one of the two experienced starters the Phillies had to offer. The Yankees and Red Sox face off at Fenway, but instead of the heated rivalry of 1999-2004, it’s just a weekend series of two bad ball clubs. Meantime, the Giants and Mets start what should be a dynamite series at Citi Field. Tonight, Jake Peevy faces Steven Matz, but the real money game is Sunday, when the Angry Hobo, or “MadBum,” Madison Bumgarner faces Thor, the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard. When the Nationals face the Cardinals tonight, Stephen Strasburg will face the Cardinals’ Mike Leake. The Cardinals figure to be a playoff team and the Nationals hope to be one after being the prohibitive favorites the last two seasons and underachieving.
Ron Washington, former manager of the Texas Rangers is 64 today. He played 10 years in the minors before making the bigs for good in 1981. He coached with Oakland for a decade before managing the Rangers to a pair of World Series. Starting last year he returned to coaching in Oakland.
Rick Burleson is 65. He hails from Lynwood, California as does Weird Al Yankovic who began to make his name in music in 1979. Burleson was the shortstop for the Red Sox during their 1975-78 seasons, appearing in one World Series and losing to the Yankees in the Bucky Dent game in 1978. He also played with the Angels in 1986 when they lost the ALCS to the Red Sox. He was an All-Star 4 times between 1977 and 1981. He was known to be coaching as late as 2012.
Tom House is 69. Of him, former Yankee Fritz Peterson says:
“Happy Birthday to Tom House, who pitched for the Atlanta Braves from 1971 to 1975, the Boston Red Sox in 1976 and 1977, and the Seattle Mariners in 1977 and 1978. I remember a game at Cleveland Stadium in 1976 when he came in to replace Reggie Cleveland in the bottom of the 11th with two outs, a runner on second, and the score tied 4-4. He struck out Rick Manning looking to end the inning. He came back to pitch the 12th, after the Red Sox had scored two runs, and got three outs in a row.” All I can add is, on April 8, 1974 Tom House caught Henry Aaron’s 715th home run when it landed in the Braves’ bull pen. With E-bay still decades in the future House presented the ball to Aaron. House coached both here and in Japan, and has also worked with football quarterbacks on their mechanics.
Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio is 82. The Venezuelan native put up 2677 hits between 1956 and 1973. He was an All-Star 13 times between 1958 and 1972. He was with the 1966 Orioles who swept the Dodgers to win the World Series. He won 9 gold gloves and led his league in steals 9 times. He played for the White Sox and Red Sox as well as the Orioles.
While the name of Luis Aparicio is known around the baseball world, our last birthday celebrant is known to Mets’ fans and maybe nobody else. They called him The Glider. Ed Charles is 83 today. The 1969 Mets’ world championship season was his last in the game. He had begun with the Kansas City Athletics in 1962 and been sent to the Mets in mid-1967. He was the Mets’ oldest regular when he came aboard, at 34. In 1968 his 15 home runs led the Flushing 9 as they finished 9th, their first time out of the basement. On Sept. 24, 1969 with Charles hitting his last home run and Don Clendenon clearing the fence twice the Mets clinched the NL East over the Cardinals. In game 2 of the World Series Charles scored the winning run on a 9th-inning hit by Al Weis. The Mets took the series in 5.0