When children’s author Robert Skead spotted Triple Play Design baseball cards on Instagram one day, he quickly became enamored with Eric Kittelberger’s artistic style and shared passion for the game — and he knew he needed to talk to him about Johnny Vander Meer.
While playing for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938, Vander Meer became the only pitcher in baseball history to throw back-to-back no-hitters. The record was deemed the “Greatest Feat in Game’s History” by the Cincinnati Post on June 16, 1938, the day after “Vandy” accomplished something that baseball aficionados consider one of the only baseball records that will never be broken.
Skead, a New Jersey native, lived in Vander Meer’s hometown, Midland Park, NJ, and promised Vandy’s boyhood best friend, Dick Jeffer, before he died at age 96, that he’d keep the memory of his friend and the record alive.
Skead manages the website, www.johnnyvandermeer.com, and does anything creative he can to fulfill his vow to Jeffer, including crafting an eBook about Vandy’s accomplishment entitled Batboy Stories, a historical fiction novel which shares the events of the Greatest Feat from the Reds’ batboy’s perspective. When he and Kittelberger finally connected, the two came up with a creative plan to celebrate Vandy’s accomplishment and to do good through a Give Back element as well.
“I always try to have a charitable feature with my work,” Kittelberger said, “and when I asked Rob about that I was pleased to learn that Vandy had a heart for former Major League Baseball players who fell on hard times, financially or health wise, and he would personally donate his own money to help them with funds he received from signings at baseball card shows. In fact, Vandy and Early Wynn started the Old Timers Baseball Association, and funds from autograph signings and photos went to the organization, which would then be sent to ‘Old Timers’ to help pay for their medical care. Today, Major League Baseball has an official organization that accomplishes the same mission — Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), a charitable organization that assists members of the baseball family in need of financial, medical, or psychological assistance.”
A portion of the proceeds of the sale of each hand-made, custom card and larger prints (which took a few weeks to design and create) will go to BAT.
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Skead said. “When I first spoke with Eric and discovered he lived in Ohio and was a huge Reds fan, I knew this was going to be special.”
After the two talked about Vandy, baseball, art and giving back to charity, Kittelberger got to work on the design.
“Needless to say, after seeing it, I was blown away,” Skead said. “Both Mr. Jeffer and Vandy would be so pleased by this effort, which reflects that a combination of art and baseball can do wonderful things to help others — and celebrate chasing one’s dreams.”
Skead hopes to one day sell the children’s picture book manuscript he wrote about Vander Meer so more children around the nation can learn about him and his record.
The Triple Play Design Company created a limited quantity of 57 cards to honor the Number 57 which Vander Meer wore on his jersey in 1938. For more information, visit www.tripleplaydesign.com.