American Legion Baseball
American Legion Baseball is a national institution, having thrived through a world war, several national tragedies, and times of great prosperity as well as great despair.
The league still stands behind the traditional values upon which it was founded in 1925. American Legion Baseball has taught hundreds of thousands of young Americans the importance of sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship. The program is also a promoter of equality, making teammates out of young athletes regardless of their income levels or social standings. American Legion Baseball has been, and continues to be, a stepping stone to manhood for millions of young men who have gone on to serve their country or community, raise families or play the sport at the highest level.
Major League Baseball and American Legion Baseball don't have a formal partnership, but the two owe each other a tremendous debt of gratitude. MLB has sponsored Legion Baseball almost since its inception, and Legion Baseball has returned the favor, churning out major league prospects since the alumni base has been old enough to be scouted. The number of former Legion players who have gone on to the pros is far too large to chart. More than half of current major-leaguers played Legion Baseball. So did almost every working MLB manager, along with several former commissioners. In all, more than 60 program graduates are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Naturally, Legion Baseball's alumni base includes some of the sport's most recognizable names. Yogi Berra played for Fred W. Stockham Post 245 in St. Louis and was once quoted as saying it was the most fun he ever had. Ted Williams suited up for a post in San Diego. Frank Robinson led his Oakland, Calif., team to the only back-to-back national championships in program history. Babe Ruth was too old to join when Legion Baseball started, but he spent the final years of his life promoting the program as its director of operations. Other prominent players include Justin Verlander, Ryne Sandberg, Roy Campanella, Dusty Baker, Albert Pujols, Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones.
Of all the notable former players, Legion Baseball had perhaps the greatest impact on former Cleveland Indians great Bob Feller. A self-described shy farm kid from rural Iowa, Feller cut his teeth playing for Variety Post 313. He says the experience taught him as much about life as it did baseball. Legion Baseball gave him an outlet to be discovered as a pitcher, but also gave him a chance to form lifelong friendships, learn to deal with letdown in athletic competition, and become better prepared for the mental and emotional strain of fighting in a war.
The first Legion alumnus elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Feller wrote a column for The American Legion Magazine in June 1963, expressing his love and appreciation for the league after it honored him with a plaque in 1962.
"Truthfully, I feel I should have given a plaque to The American Legion rather than receiving one from it," Feller wrote. He penned the column free of charge and admitted that he never endorsed anything he didn't believe in during his career, even for large sums of money.
Yet baseball isn't the only area where former players have excelled. Legion Baseball graduates have gone on to prominence in other career fields. Former Vice President Dick Cheney played for Post 2 in Casper, Wyo. Famed journalist and author Tom Brokaw played Legion ball in South Dakota, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was on a team in Pennsylvania.
In short, Legion Baseball graduates are proud contributors throughout our society and often are the most successful people in their respective career fields.
Shrewsbury, Mass., Post 397 won the American Legion Baseball's Northeast Regional tournament
Shrewsbury, Mass., Post 397 won the American Legion Baseball's Northeast Regional tournament to earn their first appearance in the American Legion World Series (ALWS).
Although Shrewsbury went home without the championship trophy, players and coaches from the team "could not have been more proud to have represented our town, our zone, our state, and our region. What an amazing experience throughout this entire ride," Frank Vaccaro Jr., Shrewsbury Post 397's assistant and third base coach, tweeted. "We made history and had a blast every step of the way!"
American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt attended the World Series and saw the impact one of the Legion's premiere programs is having on youth, and the important role Legionnaires play in that impact.
"As Legionnaires we build opportunities in our communities across the country, and our youth programs are a result of that – Legion Baseball being one of them," he said. "Every year Legion posts give Legion ball players the opportunity to ascend to the American Legion World Series, and have done so for the last 92 years. Legionnaires ought to be proud of what they do in their communities to give young people an opportunity to not only participate in our youth programs, but also learn about patriotism, respect, and an appreciation for veterans who are still serving America. Legionnaires should be proud."