Johnny Vander Meer and MLB’s Most Unbreakable Record

Baseball is filled with crazy statistics and ridiculous records. Some of these records set by the all time greats are so impressive that one might think they might never get broken (any pitching record set before 1920). But there is one record that stands above all other records in professional baseball, and its held by someone who you’ve probably never heard of.

When the term unbreakable record is said, a few feats come to mind. Like Ty Cobb’s .366 lifetime batting average, Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hit streak, Walter Johnson’s 110 shutouts, and Nolan Ryan’s 5714 strikeouts. The list goes on. But there is one feat that was achieved in 1938 that will withstand the test of time as MLB’s most unbreakable record.

Johnny Vander Meer was a southpaw, who broke into the league with the Cincinnati Reds in 1937. His career record is a respectable 119-121 with a 3.44 lifetime ERA, not terrible for 13 years in the big leagues. He even won a World Series with the Reds in 1940. After enjoying his rookie season, which saw a few starts and about 80 innings on the bump, Vander Meer became part of the Cincinnati rotation in 1938. On June 11, Vander Meer prepared to face the Boston Bees (yes that was a real team) The Bees were a pretty solid ball club, finishing up the 1938 campaign with a 77-75 record.

When the game was all said and done, Vander Meer had pitched the 106th no-hitter in baseball history. Now I know what you’re thinking, “What’s so impressive about that?” Well, a no-hitter is special, but its what Vander Meer would do in his next outing that would make baseball history.

Four days later on June 15th, Vander Meer was scheduled to pitch against the Brooklyn Dodgers, which featured Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher as their shortstop. In the eve of his spectacular last outing, Vander Meer did what no other pitcher in Major League Baseball had done before, or since. He threw his second consecutive no-hitter!

Vander Meer held his opponents hitless for 21 1/3 innings, including the starts before and after his no-hitter. Vander Meer is only one of four pitchers in big league history to throw two no-hitters in the same season. Only one pitcher in Major League Baseball history has come close to what Vander Meer has accomplished, and the was his teammate Ewell Blackwell. Blackwell threw a no-hitter, then in his next outing came two outs shy of a repeat, thus leaving Vander Meer’s record in tact.

In today’s day and age, hitters are so good at recognizing and fighting off pitches that it makes throwing a no-hitter even more impressive. For a pitcher to throw one no-hitter, it requires a lot. All of your pitches have to be working, you have to have your fielders behind you making plays, and the opponent has to be struggling to pick up the ball and, obviously, get hits. Plus with all the technology involved, hitters are able to pick up tendencies and recognize when a pitch is coming. For a pitcher to have all of this working in his favor in order to throw a no hitter is a miracle.

Vander Meer’s record will never be broken. It might get tied, but it will never be broken. One no-hitter is hard enough to throw, and to throw two on consecutive outings is nearly impossible. But in order for someone to break Vander Meer’s record, that would require three consecutive no-hit outings, and that’s just impossible. Only five pitchers in Major League history have throw three or more no-hitters, those being Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Cy Young, Bob Feller, and Larry Corcoran. For that to be done in consecutive outings would be a feat, but no, it will never be accomplished.

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