By Robert Skead
On June 16, 1938, the cover of the Cincinnati Post read “The Greatest Feat in Game’s History” because a Reds pitcher, the night before, had achieved the impossible: He pitched his second consecutive no-hitter.
No one had done it before Johnny Vander Meer—who was raised in Midland Park and attended Eastern Christian School—and no one has done it since. Baseball experts consider it a record that may never be broken.
I learned about Vander Meer in 1996, when I moved to Midland Park. I soon became fascinated with his story—small-town boy makes history in the Major Leagues, is loved by his hometown and helps local children with scholarship money and good deeds.
However, it was when I attended Johnny Vander Meer Day on April 28, 1996, that my appreciation for the man truly began. Sadly, only a year and a half after that event, Vander Meer died at the age of 82. Soon thereafter, I met Johnny’s life-long best friend, Dick Jeffer, who was 83 at the time.
With our shared love of the game, Mr. Jeffer and I became friends. He asked me to do whatever I could to keep the memory of his best friend, and the record, alive.
Sadly, Mr. Jeffer passed away in a local nursing home at the age of 96.
One result of my promise to him was a new Johnny Vander Meer baseball card (printed in 2019) featuring an image of a beautiful painting of Vandy created by baseball artist Graig Kreindler. (I know a thing or two about Vander Meer baseball cards: I’ve collected practically every Johnny Vander Meer baseball card, both vintage and those created in recent years.)
Graig is considered one of the best baseball artists in the nation. I believe he is the best.
Kreindler permitted use of the painting image on the front of the card and the Cincinnati Reds blessed the use of their logo which is depicted on Vandy’s Jersey, and Action Graphics in Lincoln Park donated printing of the card, all in honor of Vander Meer.
A key provision is that the card, with a printing of 2,000, could only be given away.
Farriers Sporting Goods in Wyckoff, Sansones Family Restaurant in Midland Park and the Midland Park and Wyckoff libraries gave away the card.
The photo that the painting is based on was taken the day after Vandy’s second no hitter.
I hope the card educates children and adults about Vandy and that all are inspired by what he achieved and that they, too, will dream big.
Vandy never set a goal to pitch back-to-back no hitters or achieve the greatest feat in the history of the game. He just went out and did his best and amazing things happened. Special things happen when we do our best.
Another way of keeping the promise is the website johnnyvandermeer.com, which features information about Vander Meer, fun facts and a photo gallery.
Discover more about Robert Skead and his books at www.robertskead.com