Seattle University had a baseball team newly upgraded to the Division I level when it played a doubleheader against the University of Washington in the city's Triple-A ballpark, Sicks' Stadium. On May 17, 1952, a crowd of 4,957 -- the largest to attend a local college baseball game to that point -- watched the Chieftains sweep the games, 2-1 and 9-1.
In the opener, freshman righthander John Kelley from Yakima was virtually unhittable in more ways than one: He threw a no-hitter into the sixth yet walked 12 batters and repeatedly needed creative ways to get out of trouble.
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 15th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Normally a pitcher with pinpoint stuff, Kelly walked two batters in the first inning and loaded the bases in both the second and third with walks, and somehow escaped unharmed each time. He gave up only a run in the sixth inning -- on a wild pitch.
"It was a terrible stat," Kelly said of his dozen walks. "It was one of those games where I had a very live fastball, and it wasn't as bad as it seems. I wasn't tremendously wild. It wasn't like I was throwing it to the screen and all over. I was just missing. It never happened before or since."
The Chieftains, on the way to a 23-6 season and an NCAA Tournament berth, scored on Johnny O'Brien's RBI double off the centerfield wall in the first inning. They won the game in a highly creative manner: Bob Carlson, now deceased, reached base on a single, was bunted to second by O'Brien, moved to third on a wild pitch and stole home.
Kelly finished 9-0 on the mound that season, 26-3 for his Seattle U career with a 2.19 ERA and 17 school records. He would suffer an elbow injury near the end of the 1952 season, forcing him to miss the school's only NCAA baseball appearance.
"I hurt my arm in a game against Central Washington," he said. "My cleat caught on a curveball and I took a short stride with my left foot, and I jammed my elbow. I heard something snap."
Kelly recovered sufficiently to receive contract offers from all 16 big-league organizations before signing with the Cleveland Indians. He had turned down a $55,000-$60,000 offer to sign with the New York Giants coming directly from Marquette High School. After a completing a military obligation, he played one season of minor-league baseball in Yakima before turning to a business career.
On a cloudy spring day at Sicks' Stadium, Kelly had enough stuff to get the job done before turning the ball over to Ernie Pastornicky, who had better control that day and easily won the second game. Beating the Huskies twice in one day, no matter how it was done, was a big deal.
"With Washington being from the old Pacific Coast Conference, I'd say that was the highlight of our season," Kelly said.
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