American Legion Baseball origins go back to June 17, 1925 after the “Great War” when the country was a melting pot and many veterans returned home. It was a time of national unity during the roaring 20’s and baseball was the pure American sport. The original purpose was to strengthen Americas high school age youth and the nation with the spirit of Americanism. A former Army Major, John L. Griffith, Commissioner of the Western Conference, now the Big Ten Conference, addressed the American Legion Department of South Dakota’s summer convention in Milbank. He stated, “There is nothing in our national life which stresses certain qualities that are expressed in our athletes,” said Griffith. He was a strong advocate of physical fitness among our youth and Americans in general, including our growing legal immigrant population as becoming part of the American experience.
American Legion Baseball has become a champion of equality, making teammates out of young athletes from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. The program helps make better American citizens which is certainly important in our modern society.
The organization developed great baseball players such as Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Ted Williams for example, and many more ballplayers including 81 former players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame including recent inductees Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, and Lee Smith. In today’s game, stars such as Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Jacob deGrom, Albert Pujols, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander all played Legion baseball.
Griffith, also believed in discipline, courage, instinct, integrity, and cooperation shown on the battlefields during WWI by our young men created a brotherhood, teamwork, a bond in people that cannot be found in any other endeavor. He felt the American Legion would build character, leadership, citizenship, and Americanism that should be expressed on the baseball diamond. In his address he states, “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.”
This spirit and tradition continues today, there is no other athletic organization like it. It’s uniqueness makes it special. Before every American Legion baseball game both teams line up along the sidelines down first base and third base and recite the following Code of Sportsmanship with a baseball cap over their heart, “I will Keep the rules, keep my faith with my teammates, keep my temper, keep myself fit, keep a stout heart in defeat, keep pride under control in victory, keep a sound soul, a clean mind, and healthy body.” Then followed by the National Anthem being played prior to every game.
The program is a stepping stone to adulthood for millions of young people who may go on to serve our country, their communities, raise families or play the sport of baseball in the Major Leagues. It’s part of our history, tradition, and culture as Americans. It’s so truly American the organization is part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
The American Legion has expanded it’s athletic programs to include girls softball for high school age athletes. It all started in North Carolina with two American Legion Posts located in Shelby, the home of the American Legion Baseball World Series. This opportunity gives young girl’s ages 14-19 to play summer softball in both junior and senior leagues between May and July.
Mint Hill American Legion Baseball has a thriving and vibrant program with experienced and knowledgeable coaches that is affordable with two teams playing annually over the summer. Maybe, the time is right for Mint Hill to look into starting a girl’s softball program with some highly competitive high school programs in the area. It would give young ladies the same opportunity as baseball players to participate in one of the country’s most historical, honored, traditional, and respected institutions, the American Legion for 100 years serving veterans, communities and our nation.