The first week in August wasn't the easiest for public relations staff of American Legion baseball tournaments. First, a Nebraska state title game was decided by a coin flip because of an unplayable field after a downpour. Then, a brawl during a Sunday morning game presaged the elimination of one team from Georgia and another from North Carolina.
According to the Associated Press and Gaston Gazette among other sources, the raucous brawl you see above occurred at the Southeast Regional American Legion Tournament in Sumter, S.C., when a brawl kicked off after two members of Cherryville, N.C. Post 100's squad scored in the fourth inning. The two runs pushed Cherryville's lead over Douglasville, Ga. Post 145 to 4-0, and seemed to have Post 100 on a track to advancement in the tournament.
The team never got to find out if that was truly the case because of a violent reaction from the Douglasville catcher, who threw the ball at the second run scorer after the North Carolina player had offered up testy words after crossing the plate.
As one might expect, the thrown ball kicked off a long brawl between the teams, with officials finally restoring order after some three minutes of continuous scrapping between players.
After the fight American Legion officials were faced with the rather unenviable task of sorting out what to do with the two teams. After consulting with officials in the association's national office, the word came down: Both teams were officially banned from the tournament by reason of forfeit.
"I am certain that there will be conversations and reviews of all the reports that are written, but I don't want to try to predict what might happen," Southeastern tournament director Scott Ehret told the Gazette. "I have never personally seen a benches-clearing fight in an American Legion national tournament, so this is very unusual. And this is a very disheartening situation because our priority in the American Legion baseball program is simple. Our program exists primarily to help develop the next generation of leaders from this country. Therefore our priorities are citizenship and sportsmanship and those two are prior to thinking anything at all about the game of baseball.
"I know that in the conversations I had with both coaches and players involved that every individual I talked to was apologetic. Every individual I talked to was embarrassed. All that said, I think this could be a moment where people recognize American Legion baseball is different from every other baseball program that I'm aware of in that, there was no decision to be made when the teams left their positions and participated they knew or should've known that they would be ejected and suspended."
The players involved were ejected and suspended, which meant that both teams were left with no option but to forfeit and withdraw from the tournament altogether, leaving just three teams and a free trip to the regional championship game for one squad which saw both of its potential semifinal opponents eliminated in one fell swoop.