The 1956 Salem Wildcats baseball team had one of the most complete squads in school history with strong pitching, a potent offense and sharp defense.

That combination spelled one of the best seasons in school history. The Wildcats won their third straight North Egypt Conference championship with a 5-0-1 mark. Their 16-1-1 overall mark set a school record for wins in a season. Salem won its second regional championship that season and advanced to the sectional finals for the first time.

Outside of a 3-3 tie against Fairfield, the Wildcats cruised by the rest of their NEC competition. Salem outscored their other five league opponents by a combined 45-2.

Once they entered post-season, the Wildcats won the district tournament with a 2-1 win over Odin and a 7-2 triumph over Mt. Vernon. Salem’s next stop was the regional and the Wildcats won that with a 72 victory over Pocahontas. The Wildcats then advanced to the sectional tournament and they defeated a tough Collinsville team 2-1 in the opening round. Freeburg ended Salem’s season in the sectional championship game with a 5-4 victory.

How dominating was Salem on the season? They outscored their opponents 136-25 and outhit their opponents 149-43.

The pitching staff for coach Sam Bliss’ team was anchored by Hall of Famers Jerry Mercer, who threw five no-hitters during the season, and Morris Steevens plus John Bachmann.

The everyday lineup usually consisted of catcher Garry Pratt, Hall of Fame first baseman Ed Perry, second baseman Jim Martin, shortstop Don White and third baseman Jim Matthews, who led the team with a .420 average. The outfield usually consisted of a rotation of Jerry Forrester, Tom Thomas, Delmar Weems, Mercer and Steevens.