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.
A modest beginning
Community service has always been a core value of The American Legion. In 1925, this commitment was furthered to include a baseball program.
The league was first proposed at an American Legion state convention in Milbank, S.D., when Sioux Falls attorney and Department Commander Frank G. McCormick invited his close friend, Maj. John L. Griffith, to address the convention. Instead of a traditional speech, Griffith, who was also the collegiate commissioner of the Western Conference (now the Big Ten), spoke about the role athletics can play in the development of youth.
"The American Legion could well consider the advisability of assisting in the training of young Americans through our athletic games," Griffith said. Athletic competition teaches courage and respect for others, fostering their growth into active citizens, he explained.
The South Dakota convention agreed and passed a resolution urging the Legion to create an organized summer baseball league that started each June. National Commander James A. Drain backed the resolution, which passed that fall at the Legion's national convention in Omaha, Neb. It read:
"RESOLVED: That The American Legion ... inaugurate and conduct baseball leagues and tournaments for local championships, and that local champions determined by the competitions be given opportunity to compete in departmental, sectional and regional tournaments, and that a junior world series championship baseball series be conducted at each national convention ... "
The first program in the world to provide a national baseball tournament for teenagers, American Legion Baseball was born.
In 1926, posts in 15 states began to make Griffith's vision a reality. They organized and sponsored teams, drafted local schedules and conducted championship tourneys. Postseason tournaments at the state, sectional and regional levels culminated with a national championship. Only a few changes have been made to the format over the years. The tournament still has a similar setup: 64 teams play at eight regional sites, with eight teams going on to the World Series. The winning team receives a trip to Major League Baseball's World Series, a tradition dating back to 1926.