The 1951 Pittsburgh Pirates were one of a long string of bad Bucco teams that, because of poor hitting, pitching and fielding, consistently finished at the bottom of the National League standings. From 1949 through 1957, the post-World War ll Pirates had only one winning season.
But from time to time, the Pirates’ rose to glory even though their best games were often flawed. Consider the no-hitter thrown by Bucco left hander Cliff Chambers on May 6, 1951 at Boston’s Braves Field.
Chambers had notched an Opening Day win in Cincinnati against the Reds and followed up with another road win against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
When Chambers walked the first Braves’ batter, he set the tone for rest of his outing. By the time the Pirates racked up his 3-0 victory in a tidy 2:00 hours, Chambers had issued eight free passes to Braves batters, an incredible five of them to the leadoff hitter.
Chambers’ wife June at the family’s Pittsburgh home listening to Rosey Rowswell and Bob Prince call the game on radio. As she told Pittsburgh Press sports editor Les Bierderman, “In the ninth inning when Cliff needed only three more outs to make his no hitter, I gathered my two little girls around me and we said a prayer. I hope it helped.”
Chambers’ no-hitter was only the second in Pirates’ history. In 1907 at Exposition Park, rookie Nick Maddox became the first Bucco to throw a no-hitter and also at age 20, the youngest player in major league baseball history to accomplish the feat. In the Pirates’ 125 year history, only four other pitchers have tossed no hitters—none of them at Forbes Field.
Curiously, Chambers’ no-hitter was his last win for the Pirates. Four consecutive losses and five weeks later, the Pirates traded the popular Chambers to the St. Louis Cardinals for Joe Garagiola.
Chambers, a Portland native who grew up in Washington and graduated from Washington State University, is 89.
“Double the fun” is a Friday series here that looks at one famous doubleheader each week.