Sister willing to share with Santana

Updated: June 8, 2012, 2:37 PM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

Johnny Vander Meer's sister did not know Johan Santana had thrown the New York Mets' first no-hitter and did not have any objection Friday morning to the notion she could end up sharing her family's singular place in baseball history.

"I could never root for the Yankees anyway," Garberdina Nywening said by phone.

Santana has a chance Friday night, however remote, to join Vander Meer as the only pitchers to throw back-to-back no-hitters. In 1938, the Cincinnati Reds' left-hander out of Midland Park, N.J., shut down the Boston Bees before arriving in Brooklyn for the first night game ever played at Ebbets Field. Plagued by control problems throughout his career, Vander Meer walked eight Dodgers, walked the bases loaded in the ninth, yet ultimately secured a forever place in the game's lore by getting Leo Durocher on a pop-up.

Nywening was a teenager in the stands that night, sitting next to her future sister-in-law and among an estimated 500 Midland Park residents who road buses to the game.

"The Dodgers said they were bothered by the lights," said the 89-year-old Nywening, "but Cincinnati wasn't bothered by them. It was a great game, and it felt like all of Midland Park was there, but I thought John might lose it in the end. It was as quiet as could be in the ninth.

"Brooklyn once owned his rights, so that made it worse. John was presented something before the game for his first no-hitter, but he had to do it by the fence because Brooklyn wouldn't let him do it any other place. They were putting all their glory on the lights that night, but John didn't care about that. He never let anything bother him."

A man who guarded his privacy, Vander Meer had one order for his sister after he'd made the impossible possible.

"John told me, 'Get out of the house as early in the morning as you can,'" said Nywening, who lives in northern New Jersey. "He knew people would be outside of our home, and there would be a big commotion at school, so I played hookey that day. John never came home that night, and he went fishing the next day to get away."

Vander Meer died in 1997; a youth field in Midland Park carries his name. His sister said that she doesn't follow baseball anymore, and that she was only vaguely aware of Santana. Nywening said she had no knowledge of the no-hitter the Mets' ace threw last week at St. Louis.

"I might watch the World Series a bit, but that's about it," she said. "(Santana) might match John, but nobody's going to pass him. If somebody wants the glory of matching him, I wouldn't ever be nasty about it and root against him. I think it would be good for John if it happened

"And the Yankees are always buying the best anyway. They always win, and I think there should always be competition in sports, so I won't be rooting for them tonight. Maybe I'll even listen to the game."

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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