EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of stories looking at the American Legion Baseball playoffs before the switch to the eight-regional format in 1960. Part 1 took a look at the first American Legion World Series in 1926. Part 2 showcased the playoff structure before 1960. And Part 3 highlighted some of the individual standout performers before 1960.
In the early days of American Legion Baseball competition, a handful of states emerged as powers in national tournament play.
None was more dominant than California, which won a staggering 49 national tournaments from 1926 to 1959. That includes eight American Legion World Series titles.
Led by early powers like Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego, California teams won 41 regional and sectional titles during that era. California was so dominant in those early years that they advanced to every regional championship game from their first season of national competition in 1928 until 1959.
California was easily the winningest regional and sectional team with 129 victories against 32 defeats. Other dominant states in those early years were Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Nebraska, South Carolina and Illinois.
California had regional title streaks of 10 straight (1945-54), nine straight (1928-36) and six straight (1938-43) years. Oakland (1928, 1949, 1950) and San Diego (1938, 1941, 1954) took three ALWS titles each and Los Angeles won ALWS championships in 1942 and 1951.
New Orleans led Louisiana's success as eight different posts combined to give that city 27 of the 32 Louisiana state titles from 1928 to 1959. Those teams helped Louisiana rack up 105 regional and sectional victories. New Orleans also won ALWS championships in 1932 and 1946.
North Carolina is third in regional and sectional victories with 96, followed by Massachusetts (95), Ohio (93), Nebraska (78), South Carolina (76) and Illinois (68).
North Carolina's success before 1960 produced three of the state's four ALWS titles, and they came in five-year intervals from 1935 (Gastonia) to 1940 (Albemarle) to 1945 (Shelby). From 1933 to 1941, North Carolina won nine straight regional titles.
Massachusetts won 11 straight regional titles from 1949 to 1959 and East Lynn won an ALWS title in 1937.
Ohio's 28 titles helped spawn the all-time ALWS winner Cincinnati, as Post 50 won titles in 1944, 1947, 1952, 1955 and 1958 and Post 216 won in 1957.
Nebraska won 20 titles and Omaha won the 1939 ALWS title.
South Carolina also won 20 titles, including seven straight regionals from 1952 to 1958. The state also picked up its first ALWS title in 1936 (Spartanburg).
And Illinois won 22 titles and had two early ALWS champions: South Chicago in 1931 and Chicago in 1933.
On the other end of the spectrum, the states and/or territories of Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Panama, Vermont and Wyoming never won a national tournament title from 1926 to 1959.
And the hard luck award — or hard draw as the case may be — has to go to the state of Arizona. That state has the most regional runner-up finishes with 16, each of them to California.
Tennessee has the second-most regional runner-up finishes with 14.