When Little League Became Big News

A group of boys in baseball uniforms cheer with hands raised in the air.

“A Judge Tells About Baseball’s Happiest League,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), July 29, 1956.

A yellowed newspaper clipping shows an article. Visible text reads: Little Leaguers in Tournament Seek National Title on Aug. 22-23

“Little Leaguers in Tournament,” Lock Haven Express (Lock Haven, PA), August 5, 1947, p. 9. Retrieved from Newspaper ARCHIVE.

 

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.

 

Top half of a newspaper page which includes a photograph of a young man pitching a ball while another slides in the dirt.

“Frohock and Watson Pitch First Little League No-Hitter,” The Key West Citizen (Key West, FL), June 14, 1951.

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.

Newspaper article clipping.

“10,000 See Stamford Beat Texans to Win Little League World Series,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), August 26, 1951.

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.

Newspaper sports page with several small photographs and a large headline along the top. Text reads: Little League Baseball Championship on CBS - TV.

“Little League Baseball Championship on CBS – TV,” The Detroit Tribune (Detroit, MI), August 29, 1953.

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.

President Eisenhower leans over looking at a trophy held by a young boy in a baseball uniform while the rest of the baseball team of young boys and several other adults look on behind them.

“President Admires Little League Trophy,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), August 27, 1957.

The best news about Little League though, will always be the joy it brings.

Two young boys in baseball uniforms smile as they hug.

“Little Leaguers Play for World Title Tomorrow,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), August 28, 1959.

A man in a baseball uniform which reads Braves stands adjusting the baseball mitt being worn by a young man standing next to him, also in a baseball uniform. A smaller image in the upper right corner shows the boy with his baseball card collection spread around him. Newspaper article text is below the photographs.

“As One Home Run King to Another,” Jackson Advocate (Jackson, MS), June 30, 1962.

Additional Resources:

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.

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