For almost 75 years we’ve cheered for our youngest and brightest stars in America’s pastime as the Little League World Series takes place every August. You might tune in this week to watch as the top teams of youngsters face off in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where it all began.
Organized in 1938 by Carl Stotz, Little League started as a local baseball league for boys in Williamsport. It was just getting off the ground when the U.S. entered World War II. Their field was taken over by war production and the volunteers for the league were needed elsewhere. But once the war ended, games started up again and by 1946, there were twelve leagues in Pennsylvania.
1947 was the year that Little League finally expanded into another state, with a new team in New Jersey. It was also the year of the first Little League World Series, called the Championship Game at the time.
After that the popularity of Little League Baseball exploded and teams were formed all over the country. In Cleveland and all throughout the surrounding suburbs, teams were formed as Little League became “the talk of the town.”* Teams were formed on the West Coast in cities like Seattle. In Key West, Little League regularly made headlines.
By 1951 when the fifth Little League World Series was played, the program had grown to over 700 leagues around the country. The World Series game was attended by 10,000 spectators including the renowned pitcher, Cy Young.
By 1953, Little League had become so popular that the final games of the World Series were played on television, broadcast by CBS. The final game in the series was even announced by the famous sportscaster Red Barber, whose spell-binding descriptions of games kept people on the edges of their seats.
When Monterrey, Mexico, became the first team outside of the U.S. to win the Little League World Series, the team was greeted at the White House by President Dwight Eisenhower.
The best news about Little League though, will always be the joy it brings.
History of Little League, Little League International.
Baseball Americana, Library of Congress.
* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.