Recent American Legion reminiscences about legendary Spokane Valley coach Ron Jackson and Yakima Beetles standout Dave Edler (and company) bring to mind an anecdote when Jackon’s Appleway Chevrolet got the Beetles goat.
In 1975, friends of mine, the late Gary Fields and his wife Linda, and I had planned a camper vacation to hike on Mt. Rainier and explore the Washington coach, but were detoured into Yakima to cover for my first state Legion tournament.
Appleway Chevrolet, made up of an aggregate of some of the best high school athletes in Valley history, played the Beetles for the state Legion title.
When Yakima took infield, part of it was a routine sans baseball. The coach would throw the phantom “ball” in the air and players would act out fielding and throwing with precision, even diving into the dirt. It wowed a capacity partisan audience and intimidated foes.
Appleway Chev proved the exception. During the semifinals, as Yakima went through its act, Appleway player Ken Nead grabbed a handful of baseballs, went up to the Beetles coach and exclaimed, “you forgot these.”
Nonplussed the Beetles’ infield ended right then and Appleway went on to victory and a berth in the championship game.
Yakima would come back to win three straight games, twice over Appleway, for its annual title and went on to the national crown. There were those who believed that either team would have won that tournament.
I covered the games for the Spokane Valley Herald, shooting rolls of film and writing my stories on a typewriter in the back of the camper, then packaged them up and sent them home with an Appleway Chev parent. Following a memorable week’s delay, our memorable vacation began.
Appleway Chevrolet finished third in state the next summer and qualified Jackson in 1977 for his third straight tournament.
For 24 summers I stood along the first-base line at Shadle Park (Al K. Jackson Field), sun over my shoulder, camera focused on American Legion baseball games. I attended numerous state tournaments as reporter and spectator. None of those were more compelling than 1975 when Appleway Chevrolet and the Yakima Beetles, both staffed with future college and professional players, stared each other down.