Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of The Unbreakable Record
● By Anonymous
It was June 1938. A handsome, rookie pitcher from small town America achieves the miraculous achievement of pitching back-to-back no hitters during the first-ever night game at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The crowd — including Babe Ruth, the pitcher's parents and 500 fans from his hometown of Midland Park — watch every pitch nervously. By the seventh inning, even the opposing Brooklyn Dodger fans start to cheer him on realizing they are witnessing baseball history. In the ninth inning, he loses control and walks the bases loaded. He manages to pull it together again and the Johnny Vander Meer-acle is etched into baseball immortality!
Johnny Vander Meer was born Nov. 2, 1914, the middle child of Jacob and Katie Vander Meer. His father was a maintenance foreman for United Piece and Dye Works in Paterson. In 1918, the Vander Meers moved from Prospect Park to Rea Avenue in Midland Park. Johnny, his older brother, Martin, and younger sister, Jerry, attended Midland Park Christian School, where he began his baseball career.
After school, "Vandy" played for the Midland Park Rangers, where not surprisingly, he was the star pitcher and earned 30 cents an inning. In the summer of 1932, he pitched five no-hit, no run semi-pro games in Paterson — three of which were back-to-back games.
His big break into professional baseball came in 1933, when he was tapped to star in the movie "Typical American Boy," where he played an all-American boy who tries out for a major league team. At the conclussion of filming, he was offered a $125 a month contract by the Dodgers to play for its “A” farm team in Dayton, Ohio.
To read more about this local hero's road to the record books, visit www.johnnyvandermeer.com, a site created by local author Robert Skead to commemorate the anniversary of Vandy's back-to-back no hitters.
Skead, who also authored the children's book Catching Rainbows about the record, learned about Johnny Vander Meer in 1996, when he and his wife moved to Midland Park. He soon became fascinated with his story—small town boy becomes Major Leaguer, sets record that no one will ever break, is loved by his hometown and helps local children with scholarship money and good deeds. However, it was when he attended “Johnny Vander Meer Day,” in Midland Park on April 28, 1996, that his appreciation for the man truly began.
Sadly, only a year and a half after that event, Johnny Vander Meer died at the age of 82. Soon thereafter, Rob was put in touch with Johnny's lifelong best friend, Dick Jeffer, who was 83-years-old at the time.
With their shared love of the game, Skead and Jeffer became close friends, and Jeffer asked him to help keep the memory of his best friend and the record alive. To that promise, Skead set out to write a children's book that details the events. "Batboy Stories: The Story of Johnny Vander Meer’s Unbreakable Record" is the result of his hard work.