The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Legion Baseball Resumes Play

 

As of June 1, the State of Nebraska opened sports venues, albeit cautiously, and baseball returns to the field June 18.

Schools are permitted to open weight rooms for all student athletes as long as the school follows the same guidelines as fitness centers/clubs, gymnasiums, health clubs and spas. According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, “games resulting from these practices (including rodeo) may begin to occur, starting June 18.”

Contact sports including basketball, tackle football, soccer and wrestling are still prohibited.

No organized team sports or practices were allowed for youth or adults in May. The State allowed places of worship to meet and elective surgeries to resume on May 4.

Legion baseball in Sidney begins on the new opening day with a 5 p.m. game.

The Cheyenne County Community Center is asking that each player have his or her own glove, helmet and bat. Dugouts are off limits during practice. Players and coaches are to follow the six-feet of social distancing as much as possible. Each player is also required to bring his or her own drink and snack.

Additionally, the number of fans will be limited to household members, and fans cannot use bleachers; they will have to bring their own seating and are required to be six feet away from the farthest point of the dugout from home plate. Restrooms will not be available and no concession stands are allowed.

AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL HISTORY

In 1925, Big 10 Conference Commissioner John L. Griffith, a former officer in the Great War (WWI), stood before the American Legion Convention of South Dakota in Milbank S.D., Griffith said, “Intelligent courage, fighting instinct and cooperation are some things which I believe are visibly expressed in our athletic games. Therefore, I recommend the American Legion launch a baseball program to improve fitness and discipline, promote good citizenship and better prepare young people for Military Service.”

American Legion Baseball was approved as a National Program in 1925. The first Legion World Series games were played in 1926 with Yonkers, N.Y. defeating Pocatello, Idaho for the Title.

Among the players to hone their skills on American Legion Baseball fields were slugger Ted Williams of California, star catcher Yogi Berrra of Missouri, and pitching phenomenon Bob Feller of Iowa.

Each of these future Baseball’s Hall of Famers stepped away from the game to serve in World War II. Berra, a sailor, fired on German positions in the 1944 invasion of Normandy, France. Williams served in the Navy and Marine Corps in World War II and the Korean War. Feller left a $100,000 per-year Pro-Contract to enlist in the Navy after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Upon induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, Bob Feller made a prediction. “I may have been the first Legion Baseball graduate in the Hall of Fame, but I won’t be the last.”

Other future Baseball Hall of Famers and American Legion Baseball Alums, who served during wartime, included Warren Spahn, Stan Musial and Whitey Herzog.

In July of 2019, 4 more American Legion Alumni were enshrined in Cooperstown: Lee Smith of Cubs, Harold Baines of the Sox’s, Roy Halladay of the Phillies, and Mike Mussina of the Oriel Cardinals, bringing the total to 81.

For each of these players and thousands of others who made their way to the Majors through American Legion Baseball, there was more to the game than hitting, catching and throwing. There was, and still is, citizenship through sportsmanship.

 

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