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Little League

LITTLE LEAGUE

LITTLE LEAGUE originated in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1938, when Carl Stotz, while playing catch with his nephews, conceived of a baseball game for boys between the ages of eight and twelve. In order to create a game with the physical dimensions and rules appropriate to their ages, Stotz used sixty-foot base paths, thirty feet less than the base paths used in adult leagues. At first thirty-eight feet separated the pitcher from the catcher; this was later changed to the present distance of forty-six feet, fourteen feet, six inches shorter than in the adult game. Base runners were not allowed to take a lead and not allowed to steal until the ball crossed the plate, nor could batters advance to first when the catcher dropped a third strike. A game lasted just six innings.


In 1939, with local business support and adult volunteers, a three-team Little League organized by Stotz began play. Rosters came from school districts to prevent recruiting from outside local communities. Recruitment was later limited to populations of a certain size, a policy that often angered adults eager to win.

Following World War II Little League grew. In 1947, the first league outside Pennsylvania began and the first tournament, later called the Little League World Series, was held. The tournament was held in Williamsport, still the site for the annual event. Press stories on Little League helped spread its popularity and in 1951 leagues began in Canada, Cuba, and the Panama Canal Zone. In 1957, Monterrey, Mexico, became the first non-U.S. team to win the World Series. ABC televised the last game of the World Series for the first time in 1960.

The success of Little League created concerns about commercialism and competition for Stotz and he resigned in 1955, after a bitter struggle with his successors. Little League, nonetheless, continued to grow, reaching 4,000 leagues by 1956. In 1959, Dr. Creighton J. Hale, then vice president of Little League, designed a protective helmet with double earflaps, later used by adults. Though in 1950, Kathryn Johnston posing as a boy, played in Little League, it was not until 1973, following a court decision, that girls were officially allowed to participate.

In 1969, Taiwan won its first of seventeen World Series. By 1975, concern over foreign domination and rules violations prompted Little League to ban non-U.S. teams, for one year. It also created two divisions that year to guarantee there would always be a U.S. team in the finals. Taiwan withdrew from Little League in 1997. Little League was played in over one hundred countries by 2000. In August 2001, Little League suffered the news that a player who had pitched a perfect game for a United States team was two years older than his father had claimed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Frommer, Harvey. Growing Up at Bat: Fifty Years of Little League Baseball. New York: Pharos Books, 1989.

Van Auken, Lance, and Robin Van Auken. Play Ball: The Story of Little League Baseball. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.

Wills, Garry. Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

JohnSyrett

See alsoBaseball .

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Little League

Lit·tle League • n. youth baseball or softball under the auspices of an organization founded in 1939, for children up to age 12. DERIVATIVES: Little Leaguer n.

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