Johnny Vander Meer, the Cincinnati Reds left-hander who in 1938 threw two consecutive no-hit games -- the only pitcher in major league history to accomplish the feat -- died yesterday at his home in Tampa, Fla. He was 82.
The cause was an abdominal aneurysm, his lawyer, Bob Carlton, said.
''At least once a day I hear about my no-hitters,'' Vander Meer remarked decades after his stunning achievement. ''It's just something that's caught the public's imagination.''
When the 1938 season opened, Vander Meer was just another young pitcher with a lot of promise. He had an excellent fastball but often had trouble finding the plate.
The son of a Dutch-born stonemason, he had grown up in Midland Park, N.J., idolizing the Giants' superb screwball pitcher, Carl Hubbell.
Vander Meer signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers' farm system in 1932, but eventually wound up in the Reds' organization and made his debut in the major leagues in 1937.
His extraordinary pitching run began on Saturday afternoon, June 11, 1938, when he threw a no-hitter against the Boston Braves at the Reds' Crosley Field, a 3-0 victory in which he walked three men and retired the last 13 batters.
There was excitement galore at Ebbets Field the night of June 15 as Vander Meer prepared to take the mound again before a crowd of almost 39,000. The fans were treated to a fireworks display and a sprinting exhibition by Jesse Owens, and then Vander Meer was presented with a watch.
But the hoopla had nothing to do with Vander Meer's being in position to pitch a second straight no-hit game. The air was festive because this was the first night game ever played at Ebbets Field. And Vander Meer was honored simply because several hundred of his hometown folks from Midland Park, including his mother and father, had come to Brooklyn to see him pitch.
As the game moved along, Vander Meer was, as usual, having control problems. But relying at first on his fastball, then mixing in curves, he went to the ninth with a 6-0 lead and another no-hitter in sight.
The first batter, Buddy Hassett, tapped a grounder toward first base. Vander Meer picked the ball up and tagged him. But then he walked Babe Phelps, Cookie Lavagetto and Dolph Camilli, giving him eight walks.
''What I was doing was forcing myself, trying to throw the ball harder than I could,'' he would recall.
Manager Bill McKechnie went to the mound to settle him down. ''Just get it over the plate,'' he said.
The next hitter, Ernie Koy, grounded to third baseman Lew Riggs, who threw home for a forceout. Now there were two outs. The count went to one ball and two strikes on Leo Durocher, the Dodger manager and shortstop. Durocher hit a fly to center field, where Harry Craft caught it easily.
At age 23, Vander Meer had his second straight no-hit game, and he was an instant celebrity. A sports columnist in Cincinnati would suggest that a granite statue of Vander Meer be erected alongside that of President James Garfield in a downtown park.
In his next outing, on June 19 at Boston, Vander Meer pitched no-hit ball until there was one out in the fourth. Then Debs Garms hit a single to left-center field, ending the hitless streak at 21 2/3 innings. (That included the final batter Vander Meer retired in the game before his first no-hitter.)
Vander Meer went on to a 15-10 record that season. He led the National League in strikeouts in 1941, '42 and '43, was four times an All-Star, and in a 13-year major league career spent almost entirely with the Reds, he had a record of 119-121.
Vander Meer is survived by a sister, Garberdina Nywening of Midland Park, and two grandchildren, Troy Coverdale and Lauren Latimer, both of Tampa, Fla.