Legion Baseball flashback: Fourth time was the charm for New Jersey’s first ALWS champions

Legion Baseball flashback: Fourth time was the charm for New Jersey’s first ALWS champions

Since thousands of American Legion Baseball teams pursue a championship every season, it’s hard to feel too bad for a team that finished as runner-up three times before it claimed its first championship.

But it’s hard to imagine anyone enduring more on-field heartbreak than Trenton, N.J., Post 93 before its historic title.

In 1933, Chicago Post 467 wrapped up a best-of-three sweep of Post 93 in the American Legion World Series with a walkoff win in the clincher.

In 1945, Shelby, N.C., rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the seventh and eighth innings to beat Trenton 4-2 in the championship game.

And in 1946, Trenton was the last unbeaten team in the four-team double-elimination event before losing back-to-back games to New Orleans to finish as ALWS runner-up for a third time.

In 1948, Post 93’s “Schroths” finally broke through for a title.

And the win had to be a relief for coach Carl “Kelly" Palumbo, who was a starting catcher on a 1932 team that lost in the sectional quarterfinal in Gastonia, N.C.

Facing right-hander Don Bessent of Jacksonville, Fla., in the 1948 championship game in Indianapolis, Trenton scored three times in the third inning highlighted by Louis Limato’s two-run double.

Florida’s Bessent, who pitched four seasons for the Brooklyn Dodgers and was a member of the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship team, finished the 1948 American Legion Baseball season with a 21-3 pitching record.

After winning its 14th New Jersey title in 23 years, Trenton survived early losses in regional and sectional competition to advance to the ALWS.

In Regional 2 at Torrington, Conn., Post 93 lost 10-4 to Yonkers, N.Y., in the second round before winning three games in two days, including a doubleheader sweep of Yonkers — 8-4 and 1-0 in 10 innings — to advance.

Trenton’s ace pitcher, 6-foot-3 right-hander Don Minnick, would finish the season with a 15-0 record that included victories in six of Post 93’s 10 national playoff wins.

Minnick, who played collegiately at Duke University, would spend nine years in professional baseball in the Cleveland Indians and Washington Senators organizations and made two major league appearances for the Senators in 1957.

Third baseman Marty Devlin and outfielder Andy Greener also played professionally from the Trenton team.

Greener broke up a no-hitter in the 10th inning and scored the lone run in the 1-0 regional championship game.

In Sectional A at Rochester, N.H., Trenton again lost its second game — 1-0 to Baltimore, Md., in 14 innings — before rallying to beat Baltimore twice on the same day — 14-1 and 9-0 — to advance to the ALWS.

Once in the ALWS for the third time in four years and fourth time in 11 years, Post 93 swept past Omaha, Neb., 4-3; Belleville, Ill., 2-0; and Jacksonville for the first title in New Jersey history.

In the ALWS opener, Minnick’s 28-inning scoreless streak came to an end in the seventh inning of the victory over Omaha.

Then Pete Millington threw a three-hitter with five strikeouts to shut out Belleville before Minnick’s six-hitter provided the title as Greener had a team-high three hits.

Trenton would go to win eight more state titles after the 1948 championship but never reached another ALWS. The best Post 93 finish came in 1952 when Trenton won a regional title before finishing as sectional runner-up to Milford, Mass.

And Post 93’s 22 New Jersey state titles remained a state record until current power Brooklawn Post 72 surpassed them in 2001; Brooklawn now has 30 state titles. No other New Jersey team has more than five state championships.


American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues. Today, the program registers more than 5,400 teams in all 50 states, including Canada and Puerto Rico.

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