Bessemer City Post 243: Program’s best days came in late 1980s after it combined with Kings Mountain

By Richard Walker

MIke Mahaffey guided Bessemer City Post 243 to its best seasons in American Legion baseball in the late 1980s.

Bessemer City American Legion Post 243 fielded 27 teams from 1946 to 1996.

Due to one of the smallest areas from which to draw its players, it suffered through predictable struggles.

But Post 243 did enjoy success in two seasons in the late 1980s when it paired championship-winning Bessemer City High players with players from Kings Mountain and North Gaston high schools.

And Bessemer, City which won only five playoff series in its history, took three of those postseason wins in the 1987 and 1988 seasons.

Mike Mahaffey, who guided Post 243 to 106 of its 151 all-time victories, was the head coach in each of those seasons.

In 1987, Mahaffey had future collegians Bruce Capps (Gardner-Webb), Rusty Bumgardner (Wake Forest football and baseball), Jimmy Holland (N.C. State) and Joey Cox (Western Carolina) on his roster. They went 15-5 in the regular season to take the Central Division title before winning two dramatic playoff series.

Facing rival Cherryville in the first round, Bessemer City won three of the last four games of the series to win three games to two. It was a series featuring many momentum swings.

After losing 14-8 at home in the opener, Bessemer City trailed Cherryville 5-0 after the first inning of the second game in Cherryville. But Post 243, which scored in 10 or more runs 14 times in 38 games that season, rang up a season-high 22 after the early deficit for an impressive 22-5 victory.

After winning 9-4 at home in the third game, Bessemer City was up 8-5 heading to the bottom of the ninth inning in game four before Cherryville scored four times in the bottom of the ninth to force a fifth game.

But Bessemer City’s hitting and Terry Thornburg’s pitching lifted Post 243 to a 12-5 in the decisive contest.

In the Area IV semifinals, Bessemer City lost the opener to Monroe Post 27 before bouncing back to win three of the next four games for another 3-2 series win.

But the back-to-back five-game series’ took a toll on Bessemer City, which fell four games to two to Stanley Post 266 in the Area IV finals; It was Post 243’s first and only appearance in the area championship series.

In 1988, Cox returned along with future collegian Jason May (Limestone) and high school pitching standouts like Todd McDaniel, Bobby Brooks and Eric Sanders as Bessemer City took a fourth-place finish in the Western Division race.

In the playoffs, Cox banged out four home runs in a 2-0 first round sweep of Lenoir Post 29 before top-seeded Burke County eliminated Post 243 three games to one in the second round. Brooks’ eight-hit 7-0 shutout in the second game of the series was Bessemer City’s lone win.

Bessemer City would win its second regular season title in three years in 1989 but was upset in the opening round of the playoffs by Shelby Post 82.

And Post 243 would only win two more playoff series – in the first round in 1992 and 1996 – before folding its team and sending its players in three directions in coming years – to Cherryville Post 100, Gastonia Post 23 and Kings Mountain Post 155.