What’s homefield advantage worth?
- Updated: December 31, 2020
NOTE: This is the last in a four-part series on the history of American Legion Baseball’s regional playoff structure. Part 1 took a look at how the regional format has changed over the years. Part 2 showcased some of the top individual performances in regional history. And Part 3’s spotlight fell on the teams, states and regions that have thrived in the regional era of American Legion Baseball.
When national American Legion Baseball officials in 1967 allowed eight host cities across the country a berth in the regionals, critics said the “homefield advantage” they might enjoy would be too great.
But has that actually been the case?
Since American Legion Baseball adopted a regional concept in 1960, there have been 49 host cities that won their regional and advanced on to the American Legion World Series.
Since that accounts for only 10.2 percent of the 480 ALWS participants in the past 60 years, it would be hard to argue that simply being at home in the regionals means you’ll win the event.
More interestingly, only four times in those 60 years has a regional host won its event and then followed up with an ALWS championship.
Hialeah, Fla., won in 1978; New Orleans won in 2012; and Brooklawn, N.J., won in 2013 and 2014.
All four of those teams would’ve qualified for regionals anyway, however, as their respective state champions.
Five times a regional host winner has finished as ALWS runner-up: Billings, Mont., in 1960; Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1975; Boyertown, Pa., in 1983; Las Vegas in 1993; and Medford, Ore., in 2009. Of that quintet, Billings and Boyertown were state champions that would’ve qualified anyway.
When a host city qualifies as a state champion, the state runner-up also gets a berth in the regionals.
Homefield advantage in the regionals seemed to matter more in the 1980s and in the 2010s. In the 1980s, 11 teams advanced to the ALWS after hosting regionals. And in the 2010s, 10 teams did so.
The 1984 ALWS featured five regional host teams, including three state champions: Millington, Tenn.; Rapid City, S.D.; and Roseburg, Ore.
The 1984 ALWS champion was Guaynabo, P.R., which had to win a regional in Deland, Fla., before winning the ALWS in New Orleans over runner-up Brooklawn. The highest finisher among the regional host winners was third-place Las Vegas.
Twice in American Legion Baseball history, a regional host also hosted the ALWS. And each time, the host team had a good showing in the regionals.
In 1967, Tennessee state champion Memphis won the Mid-South regional title before going 1-2 to finish sixth in the ALWS it also hosted.
In 2008, Shelby, N.C., advanced to the North Carolina Area IV semifinals, then finished as Southeastern Regional runner-up before hosting its first ALWS.
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