Former teammates celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pittsburg’s first Legion Baseball State Championship
The 1970 Legion-Bowlus state championship team reunited at Jaycee Ballpark
PITTSBURG, Kan. – Former teammates of the 1970 Legion-Bowlus state championship team walked through the gates of Jaycee Ballpark Saturday night and greeted one another.
“It gives me chills to walk in this ballpark. This is where Coach Ross put us together. He made the cuts, kept the guys that he kept and it gives me chills. There’s so much history in this ballpark,” says Mike Knaup.
This team was the first American Legion State Champion from Post 64, fifty years ago.
“That could never be taken away from us. To be the first to win a state championship for Pittsburg,” Knap says.
“You take a look at all these gentlemen and we had one thing in common. We wanted to win,” adds Mike Gardner.
“You know, we probably weren’t necessarily the most talented team, but we maybe had the most close knit-togetherness. We played for each other and that’s what motivated us. We didn’t want to let each other down,” says Barry Williamson.
Originally from Frontenac, Mike Knaup made the 20 hour drive from New Jersey for the 50th anniversary and said he would do it again.
“I’ve been friends with these guys all through high school. And this may be the last time, honestly, that we ever get together. And I just wanted to see them at least one more time,” adds Knaup.
Barry Williamson says baseball is more than a sport. It’s about the bonds you build that last a lifetime.
“I couldn’t even tell you what our record was. But I can tell you who all was on the team. Seeing these guys — it’s just huge. It means something that, you know, in our age…we have three of them that have passed on. And we all know someday that we’re going to be the glove at home plate. And for right now, we’re all together. And it’s just an amazing feeling,” Williamson adds.
Even though Jaycee Ballpark might have changed a bit since these guys last played baseball, they’ll always be the first Post 64 team to win a state title.
“The comment was made like if we had a field like this 50 years ago — there would have been no errors. And we would have really won,” Gardner adds.
“For us, we were the very first Pittsburg. I think there have been one or two since then but we were the very first Legion team from Pittsburg to win the state championship. And that’s something that’ll always be. We’ll always be the very first,” says Williamson.
The 1970 Legion-Bowlus team had a 26-10 record that year, winning the zone and state championship.