Lewiston’s American Legion (Lewis-Clark Post 13) baseball team has won thirty-eight Idaho state championships.
What we know about American Legion baseball, is that it is a national institution that has helped teach ten million boys under age 20 the fundamentals of baseball, fair play, sportsmanship and good citizenship.
The only time the World Series was played in our hometown of Lewiston, Idaho, was in 1973 at Bengal Field. Puerto Rico defeated Memphis to win that series. This year the series will be played in Lewiston’s neighbor, (100 miles away) Spokane. It will be the first time Spokane has hosted the series, but it has been held in Washington before, at Yakima. In fact the last time it was held in Yakima was in 2001, and in that series our Lewiston team lost to Brooklawn, New Jersey in the championship game. That is the only world series championship Lewiston played in, but they also played in the 1964, 1966, 1972 and 1977 series held in Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and New Hampshire.
The 1939 team won the state title in Lewiston behind the pitching and hitting of Del Owens. In a 1-0 win over Nampa, Owens pitched a two-hitter and hit a home run for the only run of the game. Lewiston lost in the regional when Owens, an orphan, was declared ineligible because of an invalid birth certificate.
A couple young players on that first 1939 team were Jim Lambert and Dwight Church. Lambert is the only one still living from the team. After being a good athlete at Lewiston High School, he was a World War II marine. While attending NICE after the war Lambert was a very good catcher. He spent his life as a teacher, coach and administrator in school in Eastern Washington and in retirement lives in Spokane. He was the catcher on the state and regional teams in 1940 and 1941.
Dwight Church was a 14 year old on that 1939 team, but he played on the next three state champions, (1940-41-42) and went on to be the most well known name in the history of Legion baseball in Lewiston.
After graduating from Lewiston High in 1943, he served in the navy aboard the USS California, a battleship.
He attended NICE after the war and played a couple years of minor league baseball. In the 1950’s he began coaching the high school and Legion teams in Lewiston. He coached until his death in 1994, and by that time he had an unbelievable 2,436 wins, including twenty-three state championships.
He coached all four of his sons, is a member of the Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame and the Lewiston High baseball field located in the Orchards is named Church Field in his honor.
The 1941 team was another good one.
They repeated as state and regional champions with eight returning players. The team had some outstanding pitching performances.
In the state semi-finals Snag Moore struck out seventeen and beat Nampa 1-0. In high school Snag had been featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for a perfect game he had pitched against Cottonwood.
In the state playoff, the team defeated Burley in Lewiston 7-0. Nig Kafer hurled a no-hitter and struck out an unbelievable 22!
Against Hawaii in the Northwest Regional’s in Yakima in 1950 I was the catcher for my friend Dick (Digger) Dodel when he struck out 21 and in the later years Lewiston pitcher John Gosse struck out 24. The major League record for strikeouts by a pitcher in a game is 20.