Players and fans stand at attention during the national anthem during the championship game of the 2019 American Legion World Series between Idaho Falls, Idaho, Post 56 and Fargo, N.D., Post 2 on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C. Photo by Ryan Young/The American Legion.
The American Legion World Series (ALWS) returns to Shelby, N.C., for the 10th straight season and 11th year overall. And the storylines are plentiful based on recent ALWS history in Shelby, and all-time ALWS history.
Here are seven of them:
1. Is a repeat winner a possibility?
Defending champion Idaho Falls, Idaho, actually lost a Region 7 contest in 2019 before going 5-0 in the ALWS to claim the title. This year's Post 56 Bandits went 5-0 on its way to a second straight regional title.
A back-to-back champion has happened in Shelby before as Brooklawn, N.J., did so in Shelby in 2013 and 2014 to join three other back-to-back ALWS winners – Cincinnati in 1957 and 1958; West Covina, Calif., in 1970 and 1971; and Rio Piedras, P.R., in 1973 and 1974.
2. Shelby has crowned a state's first champion three times in the last four ALWS. Will there be another in 2021?
Two states in the 2021 field have never won an ALWS. They are Fargo, N.D., Post 400 and 2018 fifth-place finisher Dubuque County, Iowa.
Fargo, N.D., Post 2 finished as the 2019 runner-up to Idaho Falls while Iowa's closest brush with an ALWS title came when Cedar Rapids finished as runner-up in 1971 and 1975.
3. Does finishing the regionals with an unbeaten record create momentum for the ALWS?
Of the 10 previous ALWS winners in Shelby, six went 5-0 in regional play, including Las Vegas Post 76 in 2008 when it became the last team in ALWS history to finish unbeaten in an American Legion Baseball playoff competition. Las Vegas went 5-0 in the 2008 ALWS.
The other unbeaten regional champions to go on to win the ALWS in Shelby were Eden Prairie, Minn., in 2011; New Orleans, La., in 2012; Brooklawn, N.J., in 2013; Chapin-Newberry, S.C., in 2015; and Henderson, Nev., in 2017.
4. Does winning a state title make a difference?
All but three previous ALWS champions since 1926 also were champions of their respective states. The three were Woodland Hills, Calif., in 1989; Yardley, Pa., in 1996; and Danville, Calif., in 2000.
This year's field has seven state champions and one state runner-up.
The runner-up was Fargo Post 400, which lost 3-1 to West Fargo in the 2021 North Dakota Legion state tournament championship game before both teams advanced to the Central Plains regional. (Fourteen states got multiple bids to the 2021 regionals; eight which had teams hosting regionals and six others from the states with the largest number of Legion teams.)
5. Regionally speaking.
Since The American Legion adopted an eight regional format in 1960, the Southeast and Western regional champions have been the most successful in following up with ALWS titles.
Each has won 12 ALWS championships, with the Mid-Atlantic winning nine, the Mid-South eight, Central Plains and Northwest six apiece, Great Lakes five and Northeast two.
The region that has advanced to the most title games?
It's the Northwest, which has the most runners-up with 14, and a 6-14 all-time ALWS championship game record since 1960.
6. Familiar Shelby teams?
In the 10 previous ALWS to be played in Shelby, Midland Berryhill, Mich., Post 165 has made the most appearances with six. Post 165 is one of four teams in the field that has been in Shelby previously.
Midland Berryhill is the second-winningest team in ALWS history with an 11-11 record in its six previous appearances, highlighted by a 2014 runner-up finish. (Brooklawn, N.J., which beat Midland Berryhill in the 2014 title game, is the top Shelby winner with a 16-7 record that includes two ALWS titles in five total appearances.)
Tupelo, Miss. (2011), Dubuque County, Iowa (2018) and Idaho Falls (2019) also have previous experience in Shelby.
Meanwhile, Fargo, N.D., Post 400, Ridge St. Mary's, Md., Honolulu Team Central, Hawaii, and Beverly, Mass., are the teams making their first appearances in Shelby.
7. Top individual targets.
Here are the record holders for statistical awards in American Legion Baseball competition in the years Shelby has hosted the ALWS:
· Top batting average - .600 by Ron Franklin (Destrahan, La., 2019)
· Most total bases - 45 by Tony Skjefte (Eden Prairie, Minn., 2011)
· Most RBIs - 18 by Blake Schmit (Eden Prairie, Minn., 2011)
· Most strikeouts - 35 by Colton Loomis (Midland Berryhill, Mich., 2011)
· Most pitching wins - three by several (last by Caden Christensen, Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Taylor Barrett, Fargo, N.D., 2019)
· Most saves - five by Jeff Malm (Las Vegas, 2008)
See the 2021 ALWS game schedule and how to follow along.