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Bright Night in Brooklyn
Maury Allen
October 07, 1963
The first major league baseball game under lights at Ebbets Field 25 years ago provided a memorable drama
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October 07, 1963

Bright Night In Brooklyn

The first major league baseball game under lights at Ebbets Field 25 years ago provided a memorable drama

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The Reds, who had picked up single runs in the seventh and eighth, led 6-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. Left Fielder Buddy Hassett was the first batter for the Dodgers. He hit a soft roller back to the mound, and Vander Meer tagged him out on the foul line. One down. The huge crowd shouted its approval, rooting for the young pitcher against the home team. Suddenly Vander Meer lost his control again and walked Catcher Babe Phelps, Lavagetto, who was leading the league with a .355 batting average, and Camilli. The bases were filled, and only one man was out.

Center Fielder Koy, batting .300, worked the count to one and one and then hit a slow ground ball to Lew Riggs at third. Riggs fielded the ball cleanly and threw home to force Goody Rosen, running for Phelps, at the plate. Two out. The Dodgers still didn't have a hit or a run.

Shortstop Leo Durocher, hitting only .256 but a dangerous man in the clutch, walked to the plate. Vander Meer studied him carefully. He pinched at the rosin bag. He looked up at the lights. Catcher Lombardi signaled the pitch. The runners led off their bases.

Durocher took the first pitch. It was a ball. Then he took a strike. Vander Meer threw again, and Durocher drove a liner deep toward right field. As the ball whistled out from home plate, the crowd screamed. It landed in the upper right field stands—foul. The next pitch was a ball. The Dodger fans disagreed.

"I had to call that one a ball," Umpire Bill Stewart said after the game. "It was a little high. Golly, I was pulling for the kid as much as anybody."

Vander Meer wound up, kicked high and fired again. Durocher swung and hit a soft fly to short center field. The ball seemed to float lazily under the lights. Center Fielder Harry Craft raced in and waited for it.

He caught it, and the ball game was over. Johnny Vander Meer, the Reds' handsome 23-year-old left-hander, had put the first night game at Ebbets Field into the record books forever: he was the first man ever to pitch two no-hit, no-run games in a row. And not only that, he had shown in the most dramatic way possible that pitching at night wasn't too different from pitching in the afternoon. If anything, the advantage was with the pitcher.

"It was tough hitting against him," Lavagetto said. "It's always tougher hitting against a fast-baller under the lights. And the lights were new to us then. But Vander Meer was good enough that game to pitch a no-hitter under any conditions."

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