Mar 29

The Story of Fireball Johnny Vollmer, One of The Nation’s Greatest Fast Pitch Softball Hurlers

There’s a legend in Minnesota, in the town they call Saint Paul,
Of a man named Johnny Vollmer, who could really hurl the ball.
He had a windmill style, a gift that was his power,
To throw the softball by you at a hundred miles an hour.

Hurl the ball, Vollmer
Hurl it like you do,
For everyone who’s watching
knows that your aim is true.

Vollmer had a rise ball that took off for the moon.
He also had a changeup that made you swing to soon.
And if you were still standing when it was three and two,
Strike three was all for you.

You never looked for Johnny pitch, it was better to pray and listen,
Try a bunt or swing away for sure you would be a missing.
Two thousand wins, five perfect games, sixty or more no-hitters.
He made his mark in the Hall of Fame, forever shines and glitters.

Softball hurlers are all, but gone, and slow pitch makes its stand.
We the few will never forget the Fireball in the Northland.

 

 

Johnny Vollmer was born on November 13, 1918 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He grew up in the downtown notorious for trouble. West Seventh Street district, Seven Corner’s it was called in those days. There wasn’t a lot going on back in the early thirties to keep young boys out of trouble and post-depression days were not good.

 

Vollmer kept his nose clean under the watchful eye of his overbearing mother, Pearl Vollmer. By the time Johnny was seven, he found himself taking piano lessons, by no wish of his own. After all, kids like to play outside when school is done for the day, but Johnny’s mother Pearl insisted on the piano lessons strongly. Johnny was taught piano by a catholic nun who use to stand by him with a twelve-inch wooden ruler in her hand as he played his lesson for her – how often he must have wondered what that ruler was for? The ruler was plain and simple: all you had to do is hit the wrong note and the ruler came down upon your knuckles. What a way to learn! Johnny tried extra hard not to hit the wrong note ever again.

 

Johnny took piano lessons for nine years. When the young Vollmer was not playing his piano, he was on Palace playground developing a new underhand softball delivery which he called windmill. Umpires on Saint Clair playground started talking about a young lad who had the most lethal fastball they had ever seen. Opposing batters said that it was not thrown, it looked more like it was shot out of a gun. In just a few years Vollmer was called Fireball Johnny Vollmer by the press, his amazing fastball seen at nighttime games would have a five-foot tail on it, like a comet searing through the night.

 

Through senior high school Vollmer pitched for his church and two other establishments, three nights a week he was mowing them down, strike three, you’re out. No one could get the bat around on him, you could only see a blur as it shot by you hoping it did not hit you. Just around his senior year in high school a new girl started her sophomore year at Mechanic Arts High School. Vollmer took notice of her and had seen her earlier that summer at one of his ball games. I guess you could say they both gave each other a smile and met again when Anna Hinterholz started attending Mechanic Arts High School. Ann and Johnny went together for six years, they married in 1942. She was the love of his life and his most avid fan, she very rarely ever missed any of his games.

 

In 1935, Vollmer was pitching for three different ball clubs, Seven Corner’s Club, Saint James Lutheran Church and the Romolian’s Restaurant. The 16-year-old had distinguished himself in softball circles by pitching seven no hitters, of which three of them were in one week. Vollmer had just wrapped up a phenomenally successful season in 1935 with 32 wins and four losses.

 

John was one of the best hitters on his teams, winning many of his own games with a home run blast to center or left field. He had a beautiful swing and good timing that enabled him to put all his power into the ball. It was later said that he was one of the best clutch long ball hitters the game has ever known. When the chips were down and his team was losing, he seemed to always come through with a hit or home run to win his own game. When Vollmer hit a home run, it took off with a boom, at a steep angle it flew, by the time it reached the fence the ball was still climbing, up through the light poles and into the night. I once saw him hit a home run at a multi-field playground that bounced in the street a field away. One of his powerful swings drove a softball 460 feet! Combined with a .440 batting average, he was always a leading hitter on his teams.

 

In 1936 Vollmer graduated from Mechanic Arts high school in Saint Paul. Fast pitch softball was gaining a lot of popularity out east in 1936, and one team in Cleveland, Ohio wanted Vollmer to be their pitcher. The team was sponsored by the Ace Box Lunch Company and they paid for Vollmer’s train ride and all his accommodation to bring him to Cleveland. I guess they wanted to get a closer look at this softball marvel, so they arranged for him to pitch a game against their own team. When all was said and done Vollmer had struck out 20 of the 21 batters he had faced, a spectacular performance of speed and control. What was interesting about that performance Johnny gave is that Bob Feller, the sensational Cleveland Indians baseball pitcher was there to watch the 20-strikeout exhibition.

 

Bob Feller, Cleveland Indians Pitcher

 

Feller was in town for a Cleveland game the very next day, and the officials thought it would be interesting to have Vollmer throw against Feller in a speed contest before his Cleveland game started. There were around 20,000 people in the stadium when Feller threw seven of his fastest pitches and the crowed just roared. Now it was Vollmer’s turn. Both men were clocked for the first 25 feet, Feller throwing a baseball and Vollmer throwing a softball. Vollmer walked out to the mound, bent over, and grabbed a hand full of dirt and presented the ball for his delivery. The crowd was noisy, and some were booing from the stands. ” Who is this guy who thinks he can throw faster than Bob Feller under handed? ” The first pitch Vollmer threw shut the whole crowd up, it was just a blur blazing through the air.

 

His second pitch knocked his catcher over and brought the crowd to their feet; now, they were really roaring! They had never seen anyone throw a softball underhand that fast and never will again. Once the crowd had quieted down, it was announced that both men had thrown in the upper nineties, with Feller beating Vollmer by a few tenths of a second. Feller walked over to the microphone and said, ” I may have beat Johnny fast ball, but I sure wish I had his control”.

 

At that time Feller had walked 111 batters in 150 innings, while Vollmer had only allowed 25 free trips in 84 innings of play. The Ace Box Lunch Company was convinced and made Vollmer an offer of 17,000 dollars a year. It was a very impressive amount for post-depression times. Vollmer would work in their finance department and pitch for their team. Vollmer thought about the offer and declined to move to Cleveland. The reason was plain and truthful – Vollmer loved Saint Paul, and it would not be the same without the many friends and followers that he had there. Also, Vollmer knew that softball was not a big game like professional baseball and decided to return home to his girlfriend, Ann Hinterholz, his many friends, and his beloved Saint Paul.

 

 

As soon as Johnny arrived back home in Saint Paul, Tom Cunningham, the manager of the Superior Packer’s softball team, took one look at Vollmer and signed him on the spot. Cunningham knew it was the wisest deal he had ever made. Johnny was now in the big league pitching for Superior Packing meat processing company in Saint Paul. Vollmer was also hired by Superior to work in their finance department, located on Wabasha Street in Saint Paul. Now they had what the team wanted and needed – Johnny Vollmer.

 

Johnny was brought along slowly in fast company in his first year in the big league. Vollmer ended his 1936 season with the Packers with 16 wins and five losses. By 1937 with the Packers ball club his control was right on the mark and his hoping fast ball was burning up the diamond. Young Vollmer has arrived and was called ” fireball” and ” invincible John” because of complaints of many batters and some umpires who said they could not see even half of his blazing deliveries. Imagine 119 strikeouts in 8 games, he was averaging 14 strikeouts per game and ended the 1937 season with 17 wins and four losses.

 

 

In 1937, Saint Paul had won the Twin City league championship for the first time ever, with Vollmer on the mound. In his second year with Superior, 1938, he won the Twin City league championship for the second time and went on to win the state crown also. His record for 1938 was 19 wins and two losses. He had struck out so many batters in 1938 that it set a record for a single season of 289 strikeouts, which still stands today.

 

It must be mentioned that Vollmer’s catcher, Shorty Mathes, played a big role in the star’s success. Other catchers did not fare so well. Broken fingers, sprains, and bruised hands were common when you tried to catch Vollmer. One catcher was advised by his doctor to discontinue catching Vollmer or suffer severe consequences. Shorty Mathes was built like a fire hydrant. He was short and stocky, and he had mastered the trick of holding on to a 100 mile per hour softball.

 

Shorty who also worked at Superior Packing, would bring home a beef steak from the meat plant and stuff them into his catcher’s glove before each game. He was called ” Beef Steak Mathes” from that point on. After a game of catching Vollmer that steak was turned into hamburger. Shorty caught Vollmer from 1933 to 1940 and was always reluctant to take any credit for Johnny success. Shorty said “He’s the fastest” and rated him the best in the country. “Vollmer’s star would have rose with or without me. There’s no one who can throw the ball like Vollmer and never will be, including Eddie Feigner.” Shorty was one of the very few catchers in Saint Paul who could handle Vollmer’s blazing delivery. Vollmer also was one of Shorty’s favorite topics, whenever the conversation was about softball. Together, they were close friends and a dynamic duo.

 

Towards the end of the 1938 season and 289 strikeouts under his belt Vollmer’s delivery was in question, especially from the defeated Minneapolis side of the river. They claimed it was an illegal snap ball delivery released from the hip. The State Athletic Committee then voted to bar snap ball deliveries in state tournaments in 1940. Vollmer won the state championship for the second time in 1939 with a new sponsor. They were no longer the Superior Packer’s but now were called Jack Colbert’s after Jack Colbert’s Bar. Colbert must have had some money to invest in the team, because almost every ball player from old Superior team signed up for Colbert’s.

 

The then 21-year-old Vollmer did it all in 1939. He won the Twin City Championship title by defeating Minneapolis, then continued to win the state crown, from there he went all the way to the National Softball Tournament in Chicago. The Jack Colbert’s team in ’39 and ’40 was on fire with Vollmer’s brilliant pitching. Johnny’s record for both years was 19 wins and two losses.

 

To give you an idea what Vollmer did, in Rochester at the 1939 State Championship, in the final game, he defeated Mankato 8-0. He pitched a one-hitter against them, allowed no runs and struck out 15 batters, keeping the bases clear for six innings. Johnny defeated three teams for that state crown, Duluth, Winona, and finally Mankato. Vollmer had only allowed five hits and no runs in 21 innings of play.

 

Vollmer threw many exhibition games and benefit games in 1939. Wherever his team played he packed them in, it was not uncommon to see 3 to 4 thousand spectators at each event. His form and delivery were beautiful to watch and his speed was amazing just a blur, some batters said that it was not thrown it was more like it came out of a gun. Vollmer threw an exhibition game in Winnipeg Canada in 1939 and there was British Royalty in attendance at the game, the prince and princes were at Johnny game. Vollmer shut out the Canadian Norwood Hawks 4 to 0, only 2 men made it to first base each on errors, while Vollmer struck out 24 batters.

 

The Winnipeg Free Press newspaper wrote the following day, ” The man who throws what you cannot see.” A bad tornado ripped through the town of Anoka, Minnesota in 1939 destroying a good portion of the town. Vollmer threw a benefit game there to start funds for rebuilding the town of Anoka.

 

Johnny and his catcher Shorty went to Cleveland for a second time in 1939. This time, Vollmer faced a team that was last year’s world champions, the Boosters from Covington, Kentucky but the story was still the same. John was invincible as he struck them out inning after inning, out fielders on his team would gather around second base and carry-on casual conversations as Vollmer retired each inning by himself.

 

Vollmer’s speed was unbelievable, and the ball he threw would hop and jump as it crossed the plate. Combine that with total accuracy and he could light a cigarette in your mouth if you wanted to smoke while batting. 1940 was a repeat year for Vollmer, he carried his Jack Colbert’s team mates to the state championship game and had to step aside and let someone else pitch for the state title. Vollmer was barred from state competition and Colbert’s did not win the state title that year without Vollmer. His delivery was labeled a “snap pitch,” trying to beat Vollmer with legislation when their bats never could.

 

Johnny’s record for 1940 was 13 wins and two losses. Vollmer always claimed his delivery was not a snap ball delivery, which was released from the hip. Johnny claimed his delivery was a windmill style and that the ball was released after the follow-through. In 1940, using slow-motion photography Vollmer’s delivery was proven to be legal, and he could once again participate in state competitions.

 

Now, it was the year 1941 and Vollmer’s team had another new sponsor, they were no longer Jack Colbert’s, they were now sponsored by Fleischmann and Muggley’s bar in Saint Paul. Vollmer finished the season in 1941 with 17 wins and four losses. What a life Johnny was living, a 23-year-old who was a liquor salesman by day, working for a company called Famous Brands, and pitching and playing softball four nights a week. Johnny’s daytime liquor job involved taking orders for whiskey on established accounts and driving around to non-customers and trying to stir up new accounts. One method that always worked well for Johnny was he would bring a bottle of Famous Brand whiskey to a new customer and offer him a drink, once the owner recognized it was Johnny Vollmer having a drink with him, they always ordered at least one case of booze. I imagine having a few cocktails being part of your job would be kind of a cool thing, but it later became a short coming to him as years went by.

 

All of Vollmer’s teams were sponsored by drinking establishments, bars that the team would go to after a victory and drink and celebrate. Vollmer would play the piano and the bar would jump, this would go on for many years, it did not matter what bar what part of town, if there was a piano there, Vollmer would be on it, and the place would be jumping.

 

Tragedy struck Vollmer at the end of the 1941 season, just when his star was rising and everything was going great for him, Vollmer was involved in a head-on automobile accident. Johnny and three of his teammates were coming home from a softball tournament in Wisconsin. They were headed for Hudson, Wisconsin, going south on Old State Highway 35, which followed the St. Croix river on the Wisconsin side. Out of nowhere, an oncoming car decided to pass in a curve, right in Vollmer’s lane. Both vehicles hit with a terrible impact. Both people in the oncoming car were killed instantly. In Vollmer’s car, one person was killed with a broken neck. Another teammate had a broken shoulder. The third teammate was incredibly lucky, as he escaped with scratches and bruises. Unbelievably, Johnny’s whole body went through the windshield of a 1934 Chevrolet sedan. Vollmer flew through the windshield down a steep ravine and landed in a tree. He was found lying across some branches with part of the broken steering wheel still in his hands. Vollmer was taken to the hospital with three broken ribs, a punctured lung, and the loss of sight in both of his eyes. After two weeks in the hospital, the sight of his left eye came back but his right eye never regained sight. In later years they called him One-Eyed Fireball. Johnny Vollmer, unimpaired by the loss of sight in his right eye in an automobile accident in 1941, Vollmer was able to recover over the winter months.

 

1942 was the year Johnny married his sweetheart from high school, her name was Ann Hinterholz and she was one of his most avid fans, she was always there for him at his most important games. Vollmer’s record for ’42 was 15 wins and five losses, unusual for Vollmer to lose so many games but maybe the honeymoon tired him out. I had heard that Johnny had to put his honeymoon on pause to go pitch a championship game in Toronto, Canada. At first, Mrs. Vollmer thought interrupting the honeymoon was going a little too far. Johnny charmed her and explained how important this game was, and she understood and let him go to his game.

 

Joann, their daughter, was born in 1942, she pitched for 30 years, sponsored by several large companies. Joann took her St. Paul Dairy Queen team all the way to Connecticut to compete in the women’s world national tournament. Joann’s club made it through the first round but was defeated in the second round by Joan Joyce of Connecticut. Joann is in the Minnesota Armature Hall of Fame, right beside her father, who taught her how to throw. Like father, like daughter. She was incredible.

 

Vollmer was drafted into the army in 1943 the war was on and because of his loss of sight, he was stationed stateside. Fort Snelling Minnesota was the first place Vollmer was stationed. It was not surprising that Shorty Johnny catcher was drafted and stationed at Fort Snelling as well, and naturally, they formed a softball team. Vollmer did not want his arm to go stale on him, and Uncle Sam wanted the same. Corporal Vollmer received orders to Clarinda Iowa, where there was a U.S. German prison camp. There, Vollmer had two duties: pitch softball and pull guard duty. I will have to say, his army years were comfortable compared to the men fighting the war. He would have been there if he had normal vision in both eyes.

 

John Junior was born in ’43 while Vollmer was stationed at Fort Snelling. Fort Snelling was located near St. Paul, so Johnny could be at home occasionally, I guess John Junior was a little colicky, and had some crying spells, and Vollmer preferred the quietness of the barracks of Fort Snelling. In 1943, Vollmer was 25 years old and his right arm was in its prime; at no other time would he be so fast. It must be noted that at 25 years old Vollmer had only one type of pitch, it was like a bolt of lightning sudden and fast was his delivery. In his early years Johnny never tried to throw any breaking ball pitches. At such a high velocity, his ball would just do tricks of its own; hop, skip, and jump at the plate. All he had to do was control it and throw strikes, which he did so well.

 

Vollmer was in the army from 1943 till 1945. He took his Clarinda army team to two Iowa state championships in 44 and again in 45. In 1945 he also captured the regional crown with his army team, he defeated Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri state champions to win the regional title. He pitched many benefit games for his army team, and benefit proceeds were used for bats and balls and equipment for his team. Vollmer was also allowed to pitch for his hometown team, Fleishmann and Muggley’s, when duties at Fort Snelling permitted.

 

It was now 1946 and Vollmer’s military obligation was over. Johnny said goodbye to the Fleishmann and Muggley sponsors and went to pitch for another establishment called Freddy Kings Bar and Grill in St. Paul. Although Vollmer only pitched for Freddy Kings for one year the record was the same. He won the St. Paul city championship with 17 wins and two losses, he went on to defeat the Minneapolis Jerseys at Parade stadium for the Twin City League Championship and went on to win the state crown for the third time.

 

One of Vollmer’s most heart-breaking loss in 1946 was against his rival Bill Klesk who pitched for the Minneapolis Jerseys. The Jerseys were the top team in Minneapolis and it always seemed Vollmer had to beat the Jerseys from Minneapolis. to win the Twin City Championship. On this occasion was a benefit game to raise money for the Sister Kenny Foundation for polio. Vollmer’s Freddy King ball club will play Bill Klesk and his Jersey team twice once at Parade Stadium and the second game at Vollmer’s home roost Dunning Field to raise money for Polio. The first game was the heartbreaker for Vollmer at Parade. The game was tied 2 to 2 at the bottom of the 7th inning and stayed tied for eleven more innings until Klesk won his own game with a hoping single over 3rd. base to drive in his team mate to win the game. The game lasted a total of 18 innings and took 2 hours and fifty minutes to play. It was the longest game in the history of Minneapolis softball.

 

The strike outs were phenomenal Vollmer had 33 strikeouts and Klesk had 31, a total of 64 strikeouts in one 18 inning game. There was a paying attendance of 1,166 softball fans at Parade who watched that pitching duel that day, they sure got their monies worth for a 25-cent ticket.

The second time the Jerseys played Vollmer’s King’s at Dunning Field they lost to the Kings one to nothing. In the 5th inning Vollmer powered one way over the left field fence to win his own game, there was also a lot of strikeouts in this game from Vollmer and Klesk. By now Vollmer had an assortment of different pitches he had been working on while he was pitching for Uncle Sam. His rise ball would jump over a foot at the plate and his drop ball you could hardly even see it. Vollmer had three different drop balls, he had a regular fast drop a slow drop and a down an in drop that no right hander ever hit. Just to put the frosting on the cake he had the most beautiful change up you ever saw, you never knew when the change up was coming, he never changes his motion, pitch after pitching it was always the same motion. Vollmer never telegraphed any of his pitches, his changeup was sweet, batters would swing so hard and so early that many of them landed on the ground on their rear end.

 

Johnny, now on his way to 30 years old, pitched with his head and his arm, he was on his way to becoming a master. I remember seeing him put iodine on the side of his finger where he had worn the flesh away, working the seams of the ball to throw that incredible rise ball.

 

In 1947 Vollmer left Freddy Kings to pitch for Herges bar and grill located on University avenue in St. Paul. Johnny pitched for Herges for seven years, and many of the ball players on the Herges team were guys who had played with Vollmer for many years in the past along with some new faces. The Herges team was well seasoned and a strong ball club, with Fritz Liembek who had caught Vollmer off and on in the past years was now a permanent fixture behind the plate. Fritz could play any position, but he was one of the few who could handle Vollmer’s blazing delivery. Fritz also used a beef steak or a sponge inside his catcher’s mitt to take some of the sting out of Vollmer’s blistering fast ball. Also, Vollmer’s best friend was his third baseman Earl Braun who Vollmer met back when he worked and pitched for Superior Packing Company in 1937 and 1938. Earl was a big man with a bat and helped Vollmer win many of his games with a crashing blow over the left field fence. Earl was about five or six years older than Vollmer and decided to hang up his spikes for a manager position of the Herges team in 1947. Earl was an excellent manager and a lifelong friend to Vollmer.

 

With the Herges team from 1947 to 1953 Vollmer won the state championship five times in a row. Herges Bar was located on University Avenue not too far from Dunning Field where Vollmer played most of his home games, and you can bet there was a lot of drinking and celebrating going on there after each victory and drinking and trying to have a good time even when they lost which was not very often. In 1953, Vollmer was almost 35 years old he had won the Minnesota Class A State Title six times. He set a strikeout record of 289 in a single season that has never been in danger. He was the greatest softball hurler Minnesota has ever had; he was rated one of the best in the nation.
In 1950, Vollmer received a great honor, the Herb Schwarz Award for outstanding Amateur Athlete of the year.

 

Fast pitch softball never became large enough to become a professional sport, maybe because of the lack of pitchers. Fast pitch softball delivery is more of an art form and not everyone can perform it, or the game just simply did not catch on. You can find small pockets of fast pitch softball across the whole nation bigger in some places then others. The game was fast moving with bunting and stealing, and sometimes a pitcher’s duel of strikeouts. Low scoring games, 1-0, 2-0, a key play that some player made or a single or a double someone hit to win their game. Nothing more exiting then a one- or two-hit ball game or even a no-hitter.

 

Tragedy struck Vollmer again halfway thru the 1953 season. Mankato, Minnesota was hosting a large softball tournament in late July of 53. It was a single elimination contest lose once and pack your bags you were headed home. Vollmer pitched five games that day and evening and won them all. He eliminated all the competition to win the tournament that extremely hot summer afternoon. It was told that the temperature was around 100 degrees and Johnny’s wife, Ann, was serving him whiskey and coke in between innings to keep him charged up. The heartbreak struck in the 7th inning of the fifth game, Vollmer’s Herges team was ahead and Johnny was about to strikeout the next three batters. The first batter got up to the plate, Vollmer went into his blazing delivery and there was a loud crack noise that came from his mighty right arm all the infielders heard it. Vollmer’s right arm had torn itself apart and was now hanging dead at his side. He walked to the dugout unable to even lift his pitching arm, a backup pitcher went in to retire the inning and the Herges team won the tournament five games in a row.

 

Vollmer threw almost 35 innings that hot Saturday in Mankato. Monday morning, Vollmer saw a bone specialist in Saint Paul who had the difficult task of putting his arm back together. Over the past 19 years of pitching Vollmer had over-developed his right arm. His bicep was the size of a softball and it made his left arm look small in comparison. The specialist operated on Johnny’s right arm, removing half of Vollmer’s softball-sized biceps, then he reconnected the tendons that had torn away from his shoulder. Some 94 stiches were need to close up his right arm. He was told he would never pitch again and that maybe in time he might be able to do some bowling, but pitching was out of the question. Vollmer was out for the rest of the 1953 season nursing his arm, he continued with his own type of therapy through the winter months trying to get his arm to straighten out. He would work his arm over and over with a heavy weight in his hand until he could finally stretch his arm out straight.

 

 

Vollmer remarkably started the 1954 season with another new sponsor called the New Bar which was in downtown St. Paul. The New Bar team was made up of players from the old Herges team and a few new faces. Earl Braun was selected as the manager of the New Bar team, and the New Bar team turned out to be the most successful team Vollmer had ever pitched for. There was some worry about Vollmer’s arm holding up to do the job after the surgery, but everything went simply fine. Vollmer admits he had lost about 10 percent of his speed, so now his fast ball was coming across the plate in the mid-eighties.

 

The loss of speed did not account for much, his perfect control and assortment of different pitches still made him the greatest softball pitcher to ever come out of Minnesota and one of the best in the country. It is hard to believe that after his arm injury that he would rise to greater heights, but he most certainly did just that. In the next three years at the age of 36 he pitched his New Bar team to three regional championships in a row from 1954-56. This led to two world competition games, one in 1955 in Sacramento, California where the New Bar lost their first game and were eliminated by a team from Mexico they should have defeated easily. It was said that heavy drinking and celebrating their 1955 regional championship on the three-day train ride out to California left them hung over and unable to play their best. Vollmer had trouble with his control and New Bar lost and was sent home.

 

Some people said if Vollmer would have flown out to California, they would have won instead of that 3-day drinking binge on the train ride there. Vollmer got another chance in 1956 for the world national title in Clearwater, Florida, it was the championship game against the Aurora Seal Masters of Illinois. The game was tied 0-0 and an easy fly ball was hit right to the right fielder and he dropped the ball in the last inning of the game which caused the New Bar team to lose the game 2-0, settling for world runner up.

 

In 1955 Vollmer quit his salesman job with Famous Brand Whiskey and started working at Remington Rand Univac. In 1957, a team who was sponsored by the Belmont Bar, which was located on University Avenue in St. Paul won the Minnesota State Championship. The Belmont team was on their way to participate in regional competition and asked Vollmer if he would pitch for them at the regionals. One of the pitchers for the Belmont club was unable to go to the regionals, Vollmer agreed, and the rest is history. The Belmont team with brilliant pitching by Johnny Vollmer won the 1957 regional championship.

 

Vollmer in 1957 was no longer pitching for the New Bar because of some unknown circumstances Vollmer now was pitching for Dicks Horseshoe Bar located on Rice Street in St. Paul near the the Capital building. 1957 and 1958 would be the last years Vollmer would pitch in the double A classic league, he was now 40 years old but still untouchable. To give you an example of how good he still was at the age of 40, he faced last year’s world championship team the Aurora Seal Masters and not only did he defeat them he threw a shutout game, 2-0.

 

Legendary softball pitcher Eddie “The King” Feigner, who went head-to-head with Vollmer several times.

 

In the following year 1959, Johnny Vollmer defeated Eddie Feigner and his four-man team The King and His Court. Vollmer played Feigner on a Saturday night and shut him out 1-0 at St. Paul’s Midway Stadium. Feigner invited Vollmer over to his locker room after the game and insisted that they play again the next day on Sunday. The story was still the same; Vollmer beat Feigner again for the second time shutting him out again, this time 2-0. They were beautiful games to watch–a true pitcher’s duel. Vollmer and Feigner both had 18 or 19 strikeouts each. Feigner had a four-man team of excellent hitters who had to produce at least one run to win a game and then Eddie could strike every batter out and they win 1-0. Those batters on that four-man team batted every inning at least six times each. They saw Vollmer’s rise ball and drop ball over and over but still could not do anything about it. Johnny was barred for the rest of the 1959 season because he played against Feigner and Feigner was considered a professional and money was involved.

 

In 1960, Univac, where Johnny worked, formed a softball team. Vollmer’s boss at Univac, Pat Brown, was his catcher and caught him during the Feigner games as well. The Univac team played in the commercial league which was the next league down from the classic league. The Univac team won their division many times in the six years they were together, and Johnny added at least six 0r seven more no hitters to his collection. Finally, after the 1965 season with Univac, Vollmer hung up his spikes, although he was still capable and good enough to continue pitching, he decided that he had enough. Many ball clubs tried to capture him and talk him into pitching for their team, but he had made up his mind and that was the end of a fabulous career.

 

Johnny Vollmer pitched non-stop for 34 years his record was 2150 wins against 85 losses, with 70 no-hitters and five perfect games. Vollmer also hit 250 career home runs, winning many of his own games. A few years later in 1971, Vollmer and a few other retired St. Paul hurlers formed the St. Paul Pitching Clinic which was spearheaded by a friend of Johnny’s named Don St. Clair. The Saint Paul Pitching Clinic was a place where softball pitchers could go to better themselves and pick up a few tips from retired masters. It was also a place where a person who never pitched before could go learn the delivery. Another reason for the pitching clinic was to try and keep fast pitch softball alive.

 

In recent years, fast pitch softball has been in decline because of lack of pitchers. Johnny Vollmer was involved with the pitching clinic almost until he passed away in 1984 of throat cancer. Johnny Vollmer was a very humble and modest man. He never boasted about any of his accomplishments, on or off the field. Johnny did his boasting with his arm and his bat. Johnny Vollmer was inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Hall of Fame in 1982, and he was truly one of the greatest pitchers the game has ever known. They called him “Fireball Johnny Vollmer.”