1947 FT. LEWIS EMPLOYESS ASSOCIATION BASEBALL TEAM 1

 

1947 FT. LEWIS EMPLOYESS ASSOCIATION BASEBALL TEAM 2

The Ft. Lewis Employees Association baseball team, better known as the FLEA Club, was formed in 1947. Most of the players worked at Ft. Lewis as civilians in various jobs such as in the engineering or the exchange services division during this time and the FLEA club opened up on post with such attractive amenities as a bar, dance floor, rec room, and even one-arm bandits. The players, most of whom were between ages 19-22, got to talking one day after work and thought it would be fun to put together a team and they convinced the Ft. Lewis Employees Association to sponsor them. Bill Gibson Jr. asked his dad to coach the team and Bill Sr. ended up managing them in both their first and last year of existence.

The FLEA Club participated in the Valley League which in those days was separated into three divisions—the north, south, and east. Although the makeup of the divisions varied from year to year, the teams who played were pretty constant and included Graham, Morton, Mineral, Eatonville, Ft. Lewis, Roy, Rainier, South Prairie, Buckley, Wilkeson, Orting, Sumner, 36th Engineers, Puyallup Oilers, Spanaway, Madigan, Yelm, Midland, Navy Sea Hawks, Fife,  Fern Hill, the Tacoma Eagles, and the Drive-ins.

While the FLEA Club always stayed within striking distance of competing for the league title, 1950 was their most successful year as the wrapped up the first-half championship of the Northern division with a 4-3 win over Yelm behind the eight-hit pitching of Frank McCabe. McCabe was one of the club’s workhorses over the years and highlighted his career with a 24-strikeout performance in a 14-inning stint to defeat Ft. Lewis 7-6 in one of the leagues great iron-man stints. A significant contribution to the success of the FLEA ballclub over the years included the steadying influence of the Harkness brothers—Dave, Val, Gene, and Ray. Remarkably, in the six years that the FLEA team competed, only 23 different players donned the FLEA colors, highly unusual given the traditional moving around of players.