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Boyertown American Legion Baseball

Boyertown American Legion Baseball

Bear Tradition

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The Boyertown Bears Senior Legion baseball team is the most storied program in Pennsylvania American Legion Baseball history and is recognized as one of the top programs in the country. The Bears have won a record 23 Pennsylvania state championships (second place has 7), 9 Mid-Atlantic regional championships, and 2 National championships. Of the 9 times the Bears made it to the American Legion World Series, they made it to the championship game 5 times. Those 5 championship game appearances are tied with Brooklawn, NJ for the most national championship game appearances since 1980.

The American Legion passed a resolution forming their summer baseball program in 1925, with the first leagues forming the next year. The Boyertown Bears team was formed a few years later, in 1929...

We're pulling together a full history of the Bears and hope to share it later this year - please check back!

The Earliest Boyertown Bears

When focusing on the rich history of the Boyertown Legion Baseball Bears, it is common to focus on 1969 as a starting point. After all, it was in 1969 that the current Bear "dynasty" began when the Bears won their first state baseball championship. But there was much Bear history before 1969. In fact, there were nearly 40 years of Bears baseball before that watershed 1969 season. And surprise, surprise - there initially were two legion teams in Boyertown, not one.

The earliest record of Legion Baseball in the Boyertown area that could be found in preliminary research on the topic was featured in an article in the Boyertown Times on Tuesday, June 4, 1929. The article began by stating that "The American Legion Junior Base Ball Championship of Berks County is coming to Boyertown," and identified Daniel Schaeffer, Lawrence Grim, and William Specht as "Legionnaires in charge of the two junior ball teams, formed by the local post." Apparently, Legion Post 471 formed two "legion junior baseball" teams (the term "junior" was dropped from the legion baseball program by the American Legion in the 1960s) with the idea that the better team would eventually survive and become a premier program. "The teams will be know [sic] as American Legion No. 1 and American Legion No. 2, and it will be the aim of the Legionnaires in charge to make one of them an outstanding junior team, and one that will command attention on other than home fields."

The article went on to state that the two teams would play each other the following Monday (June 10, 1929), and that if one of the teams would be "fast enough" to win the county championship, then they would "be entered against the winner of the Lehigh County championship, following which if they are [sic] successful they will be pitted against the championships from every congressional district in southeastern Pennsylvania. The winner of this tournament will then meet winners from similar tournaments in northeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania in contest at the annual State Convention of the Legion at Scranton July 31st, August 1st and 2nd." - in other words, the legion team would advance to playoffs that were in essence a forerunner of today's Regional and State Tournaments.

The players identified as initial members of the two squads were Lester Groff, William Dout, Russell Trout, Clarence Moyer, James German, Daniel Rentschler, Richard Trout, Franklin Schealer, William Samsel, Lester Kuser, Evan Koons, Lester Moyer, Leroy Hoffman, David Fegley, Lawrence Mest, Mervin Swavely, Kenneth Gehris, Kenneth Kline, Charles Hartenstein and William Werner.

Unfortunately, the remaining initial details of the program's beginnings are not as well documented. Apparently, the two squads did in fact meet on Monday, June 10, 1929, with No.1 defeating No.2 by the score of 15-8 in eight innings. Every member of the visiting team No.l (2B German, LF Koons, CF Samsel, 3B Schealer, 1B Moyer, SS Kuser, RF Swavely, catcher Trout, and pitcher Moyer) had at least one hit and scored at least one run. However, a detailed scan of the rest of the microfilmed articles from the 1929 editions of the Times makes no mention of the squads. In fact, the next mention of the Legion team occurred in the Thursday, July 17, 1930 edition of the Times, with the Bears defeating Birdsboro, 11-3. The lineup for this game was German (2B), Schealer (LF), Trout (RF), C.Schell (SS, P), Koons (CF), Sands (3B), Moyer (1B), Trout (C), Moyer (P), and N.Schell (SS). The article featured a scant, two-sentence summary.

The Legion Bears were only mentioned two other times in articles from the entire remainder of 1930. On Thursday, July 31, it was reported that the Bears defeated the "Gabelsville Juniors" by a score of 6-2 with most of the same players. The more detailed game summary noted the "sensational fielding" of Newton Shell in center, as well as the "good brand of pitching" by Franklin Schealer in the seven inning game. It concluded by stating that the two teams would play the second of their series of three games the following Tuesday evening.

The other reported activity for the Legion Bears was apparently this game, albeit a day later than initially reported (perhaps due to the weather), as the Thursday, August 7, 1930 edition of the Times reported that the Bears once again defeated Gabelsville, 10-3. Again, the Bears' lineup consisted of most of the same players. The game summary referenced the pitching of Chester Schell, who struck out 12 and allowed only 2 hits in the game, which, as in the case of the previous Gabelsville game, went 7 innings. The game summary concluded by stating that the two teams were to play each other the following Wednesday in what would presumably have been the series finale. However, no report of the game has been found.

No reports of any other games from the 1930 season has been found, nor has any mention of the Bears having joined the Berks County League. Since it is known that the Berks County Legion Baseball League crowned its first official champion in 1930, and that this champion (Gregg Post) defeated the Bears in the championship contest, it must be concluded that Boyertown's Legion Baseball team was in the Berks County League in 1930. For that matter, the Bears played in - and lost - three of the first four Berks County Championship games, all to the "Boyertown" of the day, the Gregg Post Keys.

Nevertheless, even though more research is necessary to fill in the informational gaps in this currently spotty history, let it be stated for the record that the earliest current evidence of the program that we now refer to as the Boyertown Bears Legion Baseball team dates from the 1929-1930 period. The so-called dynasty may not have begun until 1969, but Bears history dates from the 1929-1930 period.


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