American Legion Baseball was a special part of my childhood.
After losing his right arm during World War II, my Dad, Bob Chilton, turned his baseball prowess into umpiring Legion baseball.
I would go with him four or five nights a week down to Legion Field in Helena, Montana, and just soak in the experience, with the subtle nuances, the sounds, the smells.
As time went on, my Dad began umpiring first the state tournaments, then the regionals, and eventually the Legion World Series. Our family would spend our vacations at such spots as Lewiston, Yakima, Roseburg, Ore., and Sheridan, Wyo.
When I was 10, I got to go with just my dad while he umpired the Legion World Series in Hastings, Neb. I formed friendships with Sid Keener, the director of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and Lou Brissie, National Director of the American Legion, and corresponded with them for many years.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the dedicated men in the American Legion who give countless hours to provide such a wonderful opportunity for young people to get to play ball and for the rest of us to simply enjoy “America’s Favorite Pastime.”