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Berwyn Paoli Little League

Unforgettable Moments in Little League History

One of baseball's earliest known photographs

At the outset of the American Civil War, baseball enjoyed modest popularity as a leisure activity in the northeast. Over the course of the conflict, casual games in army camps, forts, and prisons introduced the sport to new audiences and geographies. The seeds of America’s pastime were thereby sown. In this 1863 photo set in Fort Pulaski, a ballgame is underway (in the background), at least for some of the soldiers of Company H of the 48
th New York Regiment. It might not be Little League specific. But it highlights the deep roots of our game.


The humble origins of Little League

While enjoying a catch with a nephew, Carl Stotz took a tumble over a lilac bush. In that horizontal moment, he had an idea: found a baseball league wherein local youth could enjoy the game absent the interference of lilacs and providing an organized, supervised environment. So he scratched down some rules, experimented with field dimensions (with the help of nephews and neighborhood children), and got the ball rolling with three local teams. The setting: Williamsport, Pennsylvania—1938. And the founder: a local lumberyard clerk with a practical idea. An idea with legs.

The first ever Little League game

From its inception, Little League has relied on volunteers and sponsors. While the intrepid Carl Stotz was the league’s very first volunteer, securing sponsors proved a tall order for the clerk. Eventually, three local businesses stepped up to the plate with sponsorship commitments. And on opening day, June 6, 1939, Lundy Lumber walloped Lycoming Dairy 23-8. The mercy rule was still a long time coming. Team-Jumbo Pretzel would have to wait another week to play their first game.

The first Little League champion

The year was 1947. Twelve regional teams converged on Williamsport to battle for the title. More than 2,500 fans enjoyed the event and the national media took notice. On the final day, the Maynard Midgets claimed the crown with a 16-7 victory over the Lock Haven All-Stars.

The Saturday Evening Post puts Little League into orbit

Little League is and will always remain a local phenomenon. And its expansion to and adoption by new communities—mostly in the northeast—was, at best, slow-and-steady in its first decade. On a spring afternoon in 1948, in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, the sleeping giant awoke. While on holiday in the area, Saturday Evening Post senior editor E.H. Brandt attended an exhibition game organized by Carl Stotz. Brandt liked what he saw. Four million Post-subscribers would soon feel the same. Requests streamed in from communities around America seeking a local league of their own. Little League had arrived.

First international team wins Little League World Series

In the parlance of sports, underdog is loaded with meaning. And no Little League team has ever characterized underdog more than the boys ofthe 1957 Industrial Little League squad of Monterrey, Mexico. Drawn from poverty, lacking proper equipment, and mostly new to the sport, the boys entered the tournament with few expectations. Yet, in a miraculous run, the team marched through state and regional play, earning them a place in the Williamsport finals—Dónde está Williamsport? Running the table, the boys from Monterrey would go on to defeat a bigger and stronger team from La Mesa, California, securing the most improbable and inspiring of Little League World Series titles. And a first for an international team. Enjoy the complete story as told by W. William Winoku in his 2008 book The Perfect Game. Better yet, take in the 2009 the feature film by the same title. 

The first and only perfect game in Little League World Series history

Adding to the drama of their 1957 World Series miracle, team-Monterrey featured the wiry and ambidextrous Angel Macias on the mound for the title game. He would reward their confidence, and make World Series history, by pitching a perfect game. Retiring all 18 batters in order—including 11 strike-outs—Angel sealed a 4-0 win and secured his place in Little League lore. Due to modern-day pitch count limitations, it is a record that will likely stand forever.

The first Little Leaguer to make it to the majors

Generations of Little Leaguers have dreamed of making it to the big leagues. Joey Jay, of Middletown, Connecticut, pioneered this dream in 1953 when he signed with the Milwaukee Braves at the age of 17. Jay would eventually join the Cincinnati Reds, where he pitched consecutive twenty-win seasons in 1961 and 1962. His crowing moment came in the 1961 World Series when he pitched his Reds to victory over the Mickey Mantle-led New York Yankees in Game 2. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series. But the blueprint of the dream was in the books.

Early days Little Leaguer Kathryn "Tubby" Johnston defies the NO GIRLS rule

In the early years of Little League, the consensus was clear: it’s a game for boys. Kathryn Johnston of Corning, New York, held a dissenting view. In 1950, at age 13, Kathryn shed the pigtails, suited up, and showcased her talent at the tryouts for the local King’s Dairy Little League. Having made the team, Kathryn shared her secret with the coach, who welcomed her as a ballplayer. As far we know, Kathryn was the first girl to take to the Little League diamond. Soon thereafter, Little League leadership officially barred girls from participation—a reflection of the times. It was not until 1974, when the courts and mounting legal fees, forced the hand of the League. Today, Little League baseball is open to all.

Nineteen Girls have competed in LLWS finals

Since the the Little League Federal Charter was amended in 1974, millions of girls have made their impact felt on ball-fields around the world. Of those millions, nineteen have graced the diamonds of Williamsport in Little League World Series finals. Victoria Roche of the Brussels Little League (Belgium) was the first in 1984. Mo’ne Davis, an eastern Pennsylvania product, dazzled on the mound for Philadelphia’s Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League in 2014. And, most recently, Maddie Freking of the Coon Rapids Andover Little League (Minnesota) helped drive he squad deep into the final rounds in 2019.

Three players have earned titles in the LLWS, College WS, and the Majors

Three ball-players have taken the grand-daddy of magic-carpet rides, winning titles in the Little League World Series, the College World Series, and the big dance of the Major Leagues. Ed Vosberg: 1973 Cactus Little League (Tucson, AZ), 1980 University of Arizona, and 1997 Florida Marlins. Jason Varitek: 1984 Altamonte Springs Little League (Florida), 1994 Georgia Tech, and 2004/07 Boston Red Sox. Michael Conforto: 2004 Redmond North Little League (Washington), 2013 Oregon State University, and 2015 New York Mets. It’s said you have to dream big.


LLWS features 16,000 games in 45 days

What began in 1947 with 17 teams and some 2,500 fans has grown to become the world’s largest elimination tournament. Tens of thousands of Little Leagues worldwide take to ball-fields to compete in more than 16,000 games over 45 days. World Series tournaments are also hosted for softball and other age divisions.

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