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Spiller column: Is Legion team best ever?

Published on -8/9/2012, 11:03 AM

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11It will go down as one of the greatest seasons in Hays Senior Legion history, and some even have made the argument that it is the greatest season Hays has seen.

While I have been amazed by what this team has done, in my mind, I'm reluctant to hand them the "best ever" crown -- not yet, anyway.

By no means is that a sign of disrespect to this squad. It's more a tribute to that 1974 team.

That year, Ellis County owned the state of Kansas in baseball.

At that point, Kansas was divided into Class 5-4-3A and Class 2-1A for baseball, and Thomas More Prep-Marian High School and Victoria won state in each respective classification.

That summer's Senior Legion team took the best players off those squads and combined them with players from Hays High to make a dominant team.

The 1974 team had what likely was the greatest trio of pitchers a Hays Senior Legion team has had with Mike Schippers, Frank Seitz and Greg Korbe.

I wasn't born until 1989, so I wasn't able to see this team play, but the statistics speak for themselves,

Korbe's earned-run average in 1974 sits at the top of the Senior Legion record list at 0.39.

Schippers' ERA in 1974 is fifth (0.84), and while Seitz didn't get on the list in 1974, his 1973 season ranks him third (0.77).

All three pitchers competed in college baseball -- Schippers at Fort Hays State University and Seitz and Korbe at Kansas State University. In 1978, Korbe even was drafted by the New York Mets.

He made it to AA by 1980. This year's squad might have a better collection of hitters than the 1974 team, but it's tough to touch those pitchers.

The 1974 team went into state with just three losses and won the state title, and after picking up two losses at the regional, the 1974 squad finished the summer with a 35-5 record, or a 0.875 winning percentage -- the best in the city's history for a team that played more than 20 games in a season.

This year's squad is 45-8 so far -- a 0.849 winning percentage.

That 1974 team had all of Ellis County from which to select players in a year where Ellis County ruled the baseball world in Kansas, while this squad features players only from Hays High, with the exception of La Crosse senior Clayton Basgall.

Considering the win-loss record and conglomerate of players, which includes the best players from two state championship squads, on that 1974 team, this 2012 squad has to be considered second on the "best ever" list.

However, it doesn't mean this team can't move up.

If the Hays Eagles can make a run at the National Region 4 Tournament this weekend in New Orleans, they could overtake the 1974 team.

Championships mark greatness, and in my eyes, winning a regional that features the best teams from seven different states would definitely move this squad up a notch in the "best ever" debate.

John Schippers, a member of the 1974 team, said the squad went 1-2 at the regional in Ralston, Neb., so it would take more than just a win to move up. To me, it would take a tournament championship.

For the Eagles, the good thing about this tournament is it can only improve upon their legacy. It can't diminish their accomplishments.

If they lose out, they still will be regarded by many as the second-best legion team Hays has seen, but a regional championship would make a persuasive argument for that No. 1 spot.

Hays just needs to make a run in the Big Easy.

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