American Legion baseball started locally in 1929 and has produced wins, championships and fans ever since

By Richard Walker

Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties have never ranked ranked near the top of the North Carolina population.

But they do have arguably the most interest in American Legion baseball as 12 local posts have sponsored teams over the years and won more than 100 championships including two American Legion World Series titles.

A picture of the capacity crowd during the 1935 American Legion World Series hosted by the old Gastonia High School stadium.

Gastonia Post 23 was the first local post to sponsor a team in 1929.

And Post 23 quickly became the state’s most dominant team with nine state titles from 1930 to 1954 highlighted by the 1935 ALWS title that was won at the old Gastonia high school stadium. Post 23 also has been state runner-up three times, won 14 N.C. Area IV titles, been area runner-up seven times and won 21 regular season championships.

Shelby Post 82, Mount Holly Post 152, Belmont Post 144, Kings Mountain Post 155, Lincolnton Post 30, Gastonia Post 198, Cherryville Post 100, Gaston County Post 23, Bessemer City Post 243, Stanley Post 266, Denver Post 455, Gaston Braves Post 144-266 and Cleveland County Post 82-155 also have fielded teams in the three-county region in the years since.

Shelby began its program in 1931 and was the second local post to become ALWS champion when it won that title in 1945 at Charlotte’s old Griffith Park. Post 82 also has won seven state titles, been state runner-up five times, won 10 Area IV titles with nine area runner-up finishes and 23 regular season championships.

Mount Holly started its program in 1931 but the post enjoyed its most success when it combined forces with Mecklenburg County’s Paw Creek Post 353 from 1955 to 1971. It was 1959 Area IV champion and won two regular season titles.

Belmont began its program in 1933 and restarted in 1956. Post 144 has been Area IV runner-up four times and won four regular season titles.

Kings Mountain started its program in 1934 in cooperation with Shelby Post 82. That arrangement last only a couple of years before Post 155 went its own way with two Area IV runner-up finishes and two regular season titles.

Lincolnton’s program began in 1936 and the best finish was a 1950 Area IV runner-up finish.

Gastonia Post 198 is an African-American post that began fielding teams during the era of segregation in 1936.

Shelby Post 82’s first American Legion baseball team from 1931 as it appeared in the 2008 American Legion World Series program.

Cherryville’s program started in 1937 and Post 100 has been ALWS runner-up twice, won seven state titles, been state runner-up five times, claimed 18 area titles with four runner-up finishes and 22 regular season championships.

Gaston County Post 23 fielded teams for a few years in the 1940s when a city-county playoff series determined the winner of the right to represent Post 23 in playoff competition.

Bessemer City began in 1946 and Post 243 was 1987 area runner-up and has won two regular season titles.

Stanley began in 1981 and Post 266 won three straight area titles from 1987 to 1989 with one regular season championship.

Denver began in 1990 before changing its name to Lincoln County Cardinals in 2009. Post 455 was area runner-up in 2013.

The Gaston Braves formed in 1997 as a combination of Belmont Post 144 and Stanley Post 266 and has been state runner-up once, area runner-up three times and claimed three regular season championships.

And Cleveland County formed in 2019 as a combination of Shelby Post 82 and Kings Mountain Post 155.

All that success has created three 1,000-win posts in the area – Shelby (1,460), Gastonia (1,440) and Cherryville (1,358).