The origin of American Legion Baseball is traced to June 17, 1925, when former Army Maj. John L. Griffith, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, addressed the American Legion Department of South Dakota's summer convention in Milbank.
"There is nothing in our national life which stresses certain qualities that are expressed in our athletics," said Griffith, a strong promoter of improved physical fitness among Americans, given the typically poor health of many who had gone on to serve in the Great War. "Intelligent courage, fighting instinct and cooperation are some things which I believe are visibly expressed in our athletic games ... American Legion posts, as a matter of citizenship training, could easily carry on such athletic activities throughout the United States."
Thus was born American Legion Baseball.
Nearly a century later, American Legion Baseball is one of the nation's most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic programs, with teams in all 50 states and Canada and many alumni who went on to play college and professional baseball. There are now 81 former American Legion players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the inductions of Lee Smith, Harold Baines, Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay in July, 2019.
American Legion Baseball is also a champion of equality, making teammates out of young athletes from all socioeconomic backgrounds. The program has been a stepping stone to adulthood for millions of young people who would go on to serve their country, raise families or play the sport at the highest levels.
In the October 1975 American Legion Magazine, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn weighed in on The American Legion's role in shaping character. "On Legion diamonds across the country, these young men are learning not only the skills of baseball but the valuable lessons of sportsmanship, self-discipline, teamwork, courage and integrity which will make them better American citizens."
'SO TRULY AMERICAN' Veterans of The American Legion and baseball were a natural fit. During the Civil War, their predecessors elevated baseball from a regional sport to a national pastime. In fact, Cooperstown, N.Y., was selected as home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame due to the mistaken belief that Civil War hero Abner Doubleday, a resident of Cooperstown, invented the game in 1839.
"Legion Baseball is a part of baseball and its history and its development over time," says Jon Shestakofsky, vice president of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "We don't just celebrate the Major Leagues. That's why it's so important to us to recognize The American Legion and all they've done to help people. Not everyone who played Legion baseball ended up in the Hall of Fame, but Legion baseball made a huge impact on so many people. The fact that veterans come back from service and want to build up their communities through baseball goes to show what baseball means. It's amazing to see those connections between the great institutions of our American culture coming together to benefit people."
Hundreds of athletes gave up their baseball careers to serve in the armed forces. Sixty-nine veterans from the Civil War, both world wars and the Korean War are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, 14 of whom were former American Legion Baseball players. Among them was Bob Feller of Iowa, known as the "Heater from Van Meter." Feller started playing baseball on his family farm and by age 12 was good enough to play Legion Baseball. He did so through 1934 and reached the Major Leagues as a 17-year-old before even graduating high school.
Two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Feller enlisted in the Navy – the first Major Leaguer to join the war effort. By doing so, he gave up nearly four seasons of baseball in the prime of his career. But Feller had no regrets. "I'm proud of that decision to enlist," he said. "I didn't worry about losing my baseball career. We needed to win the war. I wanted to do my part."
In 1962, Feller became the first American Legion player inducted into the Hall of Fame. "I may have been the first Legion Baseball graduate in the Hall of Fame," he said, "but I won't be the last."
Shelby, N.C., has been host city of the championship series since 2011 and has taken the event to a new level. The city's Keeter Stadium was redesigned, new lights were installed, and attendance records were shattered. The series exceeded 120,000 spectators in 2017 and 2018.
A decade ago, the ALWS was streamed live online for the first time. In 2011, ESPN picked up streaming rights and now broadcasts the tournament live on TV, giving the eight regional champions an opportunity to play on national television on ESPNU. In 2018, millions of fans watched two stellar plays from the championship game, which ranked as the top and third-rated plays on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
While most ALB players choose careers outside sports, some of today's biggest stars – including Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and Albert Pujols – credit much of their success to their time as Legion Baseball players. "It was a great experience," Pujols said of his ALB experience in Independence, Mo. "It took my game to the next level."
National American Legion Baseball Committee Chairman Gary Stone of Missouri coached Pujols when he played Legion Baseball. Reflecting on the past 100 years of The American Legion, most of which have included ALB as a cornerstone program, Stone says, "We are still teaching the same things. You always have sportsmanship, citizenship and working together for a goal, and that's not going to change.
"That pillar of The American Legion is going to continue. That is what American Legion Baseball is: the best amateur program in the United States."
With an alumni base that includes more than half of current Major League Baseball players, American Legion Baseball is one of the most prominent and tradition-rich amateur athletic
leagues in existence.
Westwood Post 320 has continuously sponsored a team for nearly half a century. Players 19 years old or younger as of December 31 and who either reside, or attend High School in Westwood are eligible to tryout for the team. In addition, Players who have been cut from a nearby team or reside in a community which does not have an American Legion team and who live closer to Xaverian Brothers High School than any other team's Base School, may tryout for the Westwood Teams.
Currently Westwood sponsors a Senior team for players 19 and under and a Junior team for players 17 and under. These teams are geared for the serious player who intends to play baseball at the collegiate level.
For more information, please contact Coach Paster at 781 326-1412 or email at: email@example.com
To register for one of the teams, please complete the Player Application and contact Coach Paster.
As an American Legion player, coach or official
Keep the rules
Keep faith with my teammates
Keep my temper
Keep myself fit
Keep a stout heart in defeat
Keep my pride under control in victory
Keep a sound soul, a clean mind and a healthy body