Baseball has a unique history in Lennox, dating back to the 1880s. In 1927, Lennox’s American Legion team was established and in 1953 the Lennox Legion team won the State B Championship title.
That title, now 70 years old, feels like yesterday for those who were a part of it.
Lloyd Stack, a member of the Championship team, said he remembers almost everything from that season.
“It was a great season for us,” said Stack. “I don’t remember exactly what our record was but I know it was up there, like 27 wins or something.”
The team was one of the best around. At the State B Tournament, held in Watertown, Lennox defeated Mobridge 3-1 in the opener in Watertown and Britton 5-4. Rain caused Tournament officials to move the remaining State games to Redfield.
After being defeated in the afternoon in Redfield, the Lennox Post 174 began playing Championship ball, defeating Britton 2-1 to earn the State B Junior League baseball championship title.
With the title win, Lennox was host to the State playoff, pitting the State A Champion, Aberdeen, against the State B Champion, Lennox.
Lennox was deemed host, having a better regular season record.
“Aberdeen thought they were better than us,” recalled Stack. “But they had to come to Lennox to have a three game playoff to see who would represent South Dakota in Nationals.”
The two out of three game affair was quite the event with Stack recalling crowds of over 1,000 per game going out to watch.
“Aberdeen came to town bragging how they were going to wipe these country boy hicks right off the map,” said Stack. But, he chuckled, “They left town with their tail between their legs.”
Lennox was able to claim the unique distinction of having the first Class B American Legion Junior League baseball team to ever also claim the title of State Champions in South Dakota. On a Sunday afternoon, in front of a record-setting crowd (1,152 paid admissions), Lennox defeated Aberdeen 12-8, allowing Lennox to represent the State in the National Regional Tournament.
At Nationals, Lennox defeated North Dakota, 6-2 but fell to Minnesota 15-2 and Wisconsin, 15-8.
“It was great, once in a lifetime you know,” said Stack. “Lennox can never have a ‘State’ Championship like the 1953 team.”
The program that pitted the State A Champions against the State B Champions was done away with over the years said Stack, making the 1953 team’s feat the only one Lennox will ever see.
Stack loves recalling those magical days on the ball field and the times spent with his teammates, friends.
“All of us local kids grew up together playing ball out in the pastures,” Stack said. “We didn’t have ball diamonds to practice on, because the Browns played there so we ended up playing on grass and bumpy fields.”
Stack recalled getting plenty of fat lips or black eyes from the ball hitting them off the bumps but “We managed,” he said with a chuckle.
Stack continued his love of baseball well into his adulthood. He enlisted into the Marines in 1955, and while with the Marine Corps he played on an All-Service Championship team. He stayed in California after the Marines and played on a travel league in Southern California.
“All the guys on the team either played on a State Championship or were semi-pro,” Stack said. “We won the travel league 12 straight years.”
Stack continued to play second base/third base and did some catching up until he was 44. He currently resides in San Jose, California and also has a home in Orlando, Florida.
He comes back to visit family often in Lennox but says with a laugh, “I make sure it’s around the Fourth of July — not winter.”
Stack’s teammates on the 1953 Championship team included Marvin “Mike” Poppens, Don Cramer, Ronald Hoffman, Marion Albers, Cortland Carnes, Robert Straatmeyer, Verlyn Groen, James Stratmeyer, Bernard Brak, Robert Jibben, Charles Stratmeyer, George Courey, and Gus Parker. Glen Stratmeyer was an honorary member and Ernie Albers served as the bat boy. The team was coached by Howard Amen.
The Lennox American Legion team won the State title again in 1993 and again in 2019. In 2015, the Legion split into a senior and junior division. The Lennox Junior team won the state B title in 2017 and again in 2018.
Lennox will host the Junior American Legion Baseball Tournament next week with games slated for Aug. 4-6.