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Big Dreams, Little Leagues
Little League Baseball

Big Dreams, Little Leagues
  • Scientific baseball (by )
  • Championship Baseball (by )
  • Baseball as we played it (by )
  • Touching second; the science of baseball (by )
  • Major 25: Rebuilding Little League Volume No. 25 (by )
  • You Know Me Al (by )
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Baseball, the famed American pastime, has developed into an international sport that has garnered millions of fans. Fanatics rattle off the statistics of their favorite players, track historical batting averages and home runs, and are left in awe when witnessing the speed, power, agility, and awareness these heroes possess. 

Many of these popular players were introduced to the sport when they were young, practicing for years and earning reverence through hard work. Major League Baseball (MLB) superstars like Wade Boggs (a World Series champion who collected over 3,000 hits with the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays), Cal Ripkin Jr. (the “Ironman” who holds the record for most consecutive games played [2,632], and played his entire 21- year career with the Baltimore Orioles), and Roberto Alomar (a twelve time All-Star who played with eight teams, were introduced to the game through Little League Baseball).

A year before its inception in 1939, founder Carl Stotz experimented with his idea for Little League Baseball when he invited his nephews and their peers in Williamsport, PA to play neighborhood games. He sought to establish senses of “courage, character, and loyalty” in young men while teaching them the sport.

By 1946, just seven years after the Lycoming Dairy team became the first Little League Champions, the initial League expanded into twelve more Pennsylvania leagues. By 1951, international leagues in Canada and Latin America joined.
Still, girls were banned from participation. Around the time of international Little League play, Kathryn “Tubby” Johnston Massar, a young girl with a fierce desire to compete, cropped short her braids and donned baggy clothes to better resemble the boys. She earned a spot on a Corning, N.Y. team, but after she was assigned to first base she confessed her identity to her coach. The coach and players agreed: she was a fine player who deserved her spot. After only one season, however, officials created and administered the Tubby Rule, wherein “girls are not eligible under any circumstances.” 

Inclusion in baseball, even at the amateur level, was not guaranteed. It wasn’t until 1974 that Little League Softball for girls was introduced. Though there were no specific exemptions based on race, an African-American team in Charleston, South Carolina, the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars, stirred controversy when all other South Carolina Little League teams refused to play. Even at the behest of Little League officials, teams refused to compete against the all-Black team.
Now Little League Baseball and Softball is the largest youth sports organization in the world. It spans sixteen regions (eight national and eight international) and relies heavily on local volunteers and fundraisers. The Little League World Series is an internationally televised event that encourages comradery, sportsmanship, and fair play among all its players.

The sport continues to inspire millions across the globe, yet the action on the field isn't the only facet that excites fans. Takuya Mitsuda, a Japanese manga artist, created the long running baseball series Major, which follows the relationship between a Japanese League batter and his son, a Little League pitcher. The satirical work You Know Me Al, written by Ring Lardner, began as a book but became a nationally syndicated comic strip. It consists of stories that take the form of correspondence letters between an amateur turned professional baseball player and his hometown friend Al. Additionally the works of Mark Harris (including The Southpaw and Bang the Drum Slowly) depict the early years of a pitcher who eventually turned into a superstar. These works are aligned with the spirit of Little League Baseball; they demonstrate the passion and dedication necessary to transform dreams to international recognition. 

By Logan Williams

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