GENE CONLEY — Basketball/Baseball
A WSU All-American basketball and baseball standout, who grew up in Richland, Conley became a stellar pitcher in the National League and star performer for the Boston Celtics in the NBA.
He played six seasons in the NBA as a center and forward and won three titles (1959-61) with the Boston Celtics. As a pitcher, he spent 11 seasons in MLB (winning 91 games) and won a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957. He is one of only two people (the other being Otto Graham) to win championships in two of the four major American sports leagues.
A three-time MLB All-Star, Conley was the winning pitcher for the National League in the 1955 All-Star Game. He struck out the side (Al Kaline, a Baseball Hall of Famer who led the Major Leagues in hits and batting average in 1955, Mickey Vernon, a two-time American League batting champion, and Al Rosen, who won two home run and two RBI titles in the American League).
Conley’s life and career are covered extensively in this bio by the Society of American Baseball Research.
GERRY LINDGREN – Track
A pint-size roadrunner who made his first big splash as a 17-year-old in 1964 by beating the Russians in a celebrated 10,000-meter race in front of 50,000 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Lindgren, from Spokane’s Rogers High, set the national high school record in the 2-mile race in 1964. It was not broken until 2013. He was the 1964 Track and Field News high school Athlete of the Year. He competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics but an ankle injury limited him to 9th in the 10,000 meters. As a WSU star he rewrote the NCAA record books setting 11 national records. Lindgren set 57 American Records from two to six miles and shared a world record with Billy Mills for the 6-mile with a time of 27:11.6. Injuries prevented him from achieving any Olympic medals.
RAY WASHBURN – Baseball
In the year of the pitcher, 1968 before the Major League mound was lowered, Ray Washburn went 14-8 with a 2.26 earned-run average for the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. Gaylord Perry had pitched a no-hitter for the Giants the previous day against the Cardinals, making it the only instance in Major League history with back-to-back no-hitters in a series. The prior season, Washburn was a key member of the Cardinals World Series championship team, winning 10 games in the regular season and x in the World Series.
Before his Major League career, Washburn graduated from Columbia-Burbank High School in Eastern Washington and Whitworth College in 1961. After a strong college career, Washburn was a “bonus baby” earning a $50,000 signing bonus before there was a baseball draft. He debuted for the Cardinals later that summer, Sept. 20, 1961. He won 72 games with a 3.53 career ERA. He ended his career with the Cincinnati Reds in the final game of the 1970 World Series.
Washburn went back to college to earn a Masters from Seattle U and became the phys ed department chair and athletic director at Bellevue College. He also coached the baseball team there for 12 seasons.
Read more details in his Society of American Baseball Research bio.
JACK FOURNIER – Baseball
Before he became a National League home run champion, Jack Fournier grew up in Aberdeen and Tacoma. After stints with several Northwest semi-pro and pro teams as a teenager, Fournier reached the majore with the White Sox at age 19 in 1912. In 1914, given a chance to play every day for Chicago, he emerged as a dangerous bat and became the only hitter to swat two home runs in a game off of Hall-of-Fame ace Walter Johnson. He moved on to play for the Yankees, Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves. In 1924 with Brooklyn, Fournier led the league with 27 home runs. He had 116 RBI that season and 130 RBI in 1925. Over 15 seasons, he batted .313 with 136 HR, 859 RBI, 146 stolen bases and 822 runs.
After his career, Fournier became a successful insurance salesman and then the baseball coach at UCLA. he followed that with several stints as a minor league manager and coach before returning to Tacoma, where he died in 1973.
More details about Fournier’s life are included in his Society of American Baseball Research bio.
BILL SCHUMACHER – Boat racing
Bill Schumacher began racing outboard hydroplanes at age 8 and was soon traveling the country to race boats. By the time he was 18, Schumacher had won national championships and set records on the water. He joined the unlimited hydroplane circuit in 1961. In 1967 and 1968 he was the American Power Boat Association Gold Cup championships driving Miss Bardahl. Schumacher won Seattle’s SeaFair hydro races in 1967 and 1971.
More details are available in this article from the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum.
BOBBY GALER – Basketball
Bob Galer grew up in Seattle, graduated from Queen Anne High and become a star at the University of Washington. He played basketball and ran track for the Huskies from 1933-35. As a junior, Galer set a new Pacific Coast Conference scoring record when he averaged 8.0 points per game — 30 points for a team was a high-scoring game then. He was selected to the Helms Foundation All-America team in 1934 and 1935.
Galer was a Marine Corps aviator who was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack December 7, 1941. Later in the war, he became an “ace”, having shot down five enemy planes. He was shot down three times and survived. He ultimately shot down 13 enemy planes. In March 1943, Galer received the Medal of Honor presented at the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He died in Dallas June 27, 2007.
David Eskenazi covered much about Galer in this Wayback Machine feature at SportspressNW from 2012.