Buehrle’s Attempt at a Second No-No, Vander Meer’s Shot at a Third, and Casey’s Psych Job
by Steven Goldman
Tonight, Mark Buehrle followed up his perfect game by retiring the first 17 Twins he faced, giving him a record 45 straight batters retired. This took him two outs into the sixth inning, at which point he walked Alexi Casilla. That put paid to the astronomically small chance that he would pitch consecutive perfect games, but the shot at a second straight no-hitter was still intact, though that quickly vanished as well when the next batter, Denard Span, singled. Johnny Vander Meer was safe.
On June 11 and 15, 1938, Vander Meer of the Reds became the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter in consecutive starts. He blanked the Boston Bees, managed by Casey Stengel, at Cincinnati in the former game, then headed to Ebbets Field and, no doubt aided by the fact that the game represented the first-ever night game in Brooklyn, no-hit the Dodgers.
What few remember is that, like Buhrle going for his second straight perfecto, Vander Meer made a convincing effort at a third straight no-hitter. On June 19, Vander Meer’s opponent was again the Bees, this time at their pitcher-friendly (pitcher-loving is more like it) home park, the Beehive. Pitching before an unusually large crowd that included Cy Young, Vander Meer kept the Bees off the bases for the first three innings. Managers often coached third base back then. As Casey walked across the field on his way to the coach’s box in the bottomn of the fourth, he went past Vander Meer, already on the mound. “John, we’re not trying to beat you,” he said. “We’re just trying to get a base hit.” Debs Garms was the next batter. He broke up the no-hitter. (The Bees lost anyway, 14-1.)
As Buehrle worked against the Twins, I kept wondering why someone didn’t just say something. Sometimes you don’t have to hit to break up a no-hitter; sometimes it’s better to be funny than good.