The first day of the 88th American Legion World Series (ALWS) in Shelby, N.C., at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium got underway with three wins, three losses and special guests in the crowd. Four players from the 1945 ALWS championship team, Shelby Post 82, came to cheer on the 2014 teams from the stands.
“The thing that I remember most about the (1945) World Series was that we were in war, and we had just won, and we had such great support from the community,” said Harvey Bowen, who played centerfield for Post 82. “Whether we won or lost, it didn’t matter — people everywhere came out to support us. That meant a lot.”
The tournament was played in Charlotte, N.C., and Post 82 beat Trenton, N.J., 4-2.
Loy Paige, who played left field, remembers that New Jersey had a man on base and made a base hit that would have tied the game, but Bowen “made a wonderful catch to end the ball game,” he said. After watching a few innings of Game 2 of the 2014 ALWS, Paige added, “If we had the nice big gloves that they have now, we wouldn’t have missed a ball!”
B.C. Wilson, who pitched for Post 82, said, “We didn’t have a bunch of all stars, but we had a bunch of great players.” Wilson went on to serve in the Air Force and played baseball while in service for 13 years.
The four Post 82 players continued to reminisce about the championship win from almost 70 years ago, and Bowen reiterated the sentiments that Legion ball players highlight to this day. “I enjoyed playing Legion Baseball because of the camaraderie and the fellowship I had with the guys and the friendships that have lasted. That was very meaningful,” he said.
Before games kicked off Thursday, the players, fans and local residents enjoyed a night filled with live music from country music artist Rodney Atkins at Keeter Stadium. Atkins received a World Series jersey, performed with it on and mentioned he would be wearing it to Afghanistan when he performs for the troops in the coming months.
Cromwell, Conn., players Chris Bouchard and Brendan Sullivan tweeted to Atkins about how excited they were to see him perform and Atkins messaged them back saying they had two backstage passes. Bouchard and Sullivan had photos taken with Atkins, who autographed a baseball bat for them as well.
During Day 1 of the ALWS, Brooklawn, N.J., Omaha, Neb., and Michigan captured a win.
“The first win of the World Series feels great, but we're not here to just get one — we're here to win again tomorrow night,” said Robert Ramsey, first baseman for Nebraska. “It’s incredible to play here. I’ve never played at a field like this before or in front of a crowd like this. It feels pretty good.”
Midland, Mich., center fielder Adam Fitzgibbon scored the first homerun of the World Series, giving Michigan a 5-2 lead over Jacksonville, Fla. Michigan held the lead, taking its first win in the Series, 6-3.
"I started my Legion Baseball career here in 2011 (at the ALWS in Shelby), and I'm going to end it here," Fitzgibbon said. "It's so great to be back here, and it's awesome to have all the fans here and everyone supporting you."
Click here to read individual game highlights from World Series Day 1 by Carl Hennell, a former 82 Airborne Paratrooper, newspaper sports reporter and current American Legion National Baseball Subcommittee member.
World Series Day 2 Games:
Game 4, 12 p.m.: Chico, Calif. vs. Omaha, Neb.
Game 5, 5 p.m.: Brooklawn, N.J. vs. Jacksonville, Fla.
Game 6, 8 p.m.: Waipahu, Hawaii vs. Columbia, Tenn.
Watch all games streamed live on ESPN3.com and follow coverage from your mobile device with the new Legion Baseball app.