Judging by Facebook and Twitter, the Pacific Northwest is still buzzing about Felix Hernandez's perfect game on Wednesday, Aug. 15.
The sparkling performance by the Seattle ace marked not only the 23rd perfecto in Major League Baseball history and the first by a Mariners pitcher, it also was the 278th major league no-hitter.
But did you know that the pitcher who delivered No. 123 on that list of no-hitters is actually a graduate of Bellingham High School?
Though he was born in Portland, Ore., in 1922, Cliff Chambers was raised in Bellingham and played baseball for the Red Raiders before graduating in 1940.
"He was really good," said Bob Gibb, who was in the same graduating class at Bellingham as Chambers. "He was a southpaw, which was a little unusual, but I remember him being really good. To my recollection, he was a little wild, but boy did he have a great fastball."
Nearly 11 years after he graduated from Bellingham, that fastball helped Chambers throw a no-hitter as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 6, 1951, in a 3-0 victory over the Boston Braves in the second game of a doubleheader.
Gibb, who has retired since he ran a laboratory and a blood bank and served as a medical examiner locally, said Chambers developed his arm strength working with his father.
"(While Chambers was) in high school, Cliff's father was a house painter," Gibb said. "He got his strong arm from painting houses."
Chambers was coached by legendary Bellingham coach Bush Lewis, and had an impressive enough high school career to earn a scholarship to play at Washington State, Gibb said.
"Washington State was really a good baseball team back then, so that was a pretty big deal," said Gibb, who also was a Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brother of Chambers in Pullman.
Before the 1942 season, Chambers signed with the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent, but after spending the summer in the Cubs' minor league system, he put his career on hold to serve in the military during World War II, Gibb said.
After the war, he resumed with the Cubs' Class AAA affiliate in Los Angeles for the 1946 and 1947 seasons, before he was promoted to the majors in 1948. He went 2-9 with a 4.43 ERA as a rookie and was traded to the Pirates on Dec. 8, 1948.
Chambers went 25-22 with a 4.16 ERA during his first two seasons with the Pirates and entered May 6 of the 1951 season with a 2-2 record.
Chambers' no-hitter certainly wasn't as dominating as Hernandez's performance on Wednesday, as he walked eight and had a pair of wild pitches. But Chambers struck out four , stranded seven Braves base runners and even picked up an RBI single in the eighth inning. He finished it off with back-to-back fly-ball outs to center field off the bats of Boston's Walker Cooper and Luis Olmo.
"I had kind of lost touch with him at that point," Gibb said. "But I remember reading about it in the newspaper. No-hitters are pretty big deals, even if they happen in Pittsburgh. I heard about it in Rochester, Minnesota, and it was pretty exciting."
The victory, actually, would be Chambers' final in a Pirates uniform. On June 15, 1951, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in a deal that brought Joe Garagiola to the Pirates.
In all, Chambers spent six years in the majors, finishing with a career 48-53 record and a 4.29 ERA.
Gibb said he caught up with Chambers about 10 years ago at a reunion in Pullman, where he learned that Chambers operated a "pretty big beer wholesale business in Idaho."
"We just talked about life," Gibb said. "We really didn't talk about baseball all that much. That was ancient history. It was great to reconnect with him, though."
Chambers died earlier this year on Jan. 21 - 11 days after his 90th birthday - in Eagle, Idaho.
"I remember him being a really good guy," Gibb said. "He was a big guy and a friendly guy."
|RED RAIDER MAJOR LEAGUE PRODUCTS|
Four Bellingham High School graduates went on to play Major League Baseball:
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