This year marks the 75th anniversary of Little League Baseball. And on the eve of the Little League World Series (which will be played August 14-24), SI Kids looks back at how a modest idea to get kids playing baseball grew to become the largest organized youth sports league in the world.
2 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
n June 6, 1939, an oil company clerk named Carl Stotz brought two teams of kids together to play baseball. In a vacant lot. In a small town. In the middle of Pennsylvania. It was the first Little League game ever played — Lundy Lumber lambasted Lycoming Dairy, 23–8 — and the start of something big. Bigger than Stotz or the kids playing for Lundy or Lycoming could ever have expected.
3 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
Stotz formed Little League during the Depression, so materials for things like bases were scarce. He carved home plate out of some rubber he found in his dad's basement. It's only 14 inches wide. "The nice thing is that Carl Stutz kept everything. So we have that in our museum," says Lance Van Auken, Vice President and Executive Director of the Little League Museum in Williamsport. "It's the very first artifact you see because it's home plate, that's where everything starts."
4 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
The first Little League World Series is played in Williamsport in 1947. It's won by the Maynard Midgets of Williamsport.
5 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
The first international Little League teams are formed in Panama in 1950. (Teams would join from Canada soon after.) And with these teams from other countries, the Little League World Series is a truly global competition. In 1952, a team from Montreal was the first international club to play in the World Series, and in 1957 the Industrial Little League from Monterey, Mexico, became the first international team to win the tournament. West Tokyo Little League Pacific was the the first team from Asia to win the championship, doing it in 1967.
6 of 11
Show Your Stripes!
7 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
Lots of kids have played Little League in its 75-year history, and some of become major leaguers — in baseball as well as other sports. Here are just a few of them: (top row) Andrew McCutchen, Tim Lincecum, Mike Trout; (middle row) Buster Posey, Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman; (bottom row) Zack Greinke, Frank Thomas, R.A. Dickey
8 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
There are lots of famous non-professional athletes with Little League experience, too. Actors, writers, musicians, astronauts, and even a President of the United States played Little League when they were kids! Here's former President George W. Bush from his Little League days in the 1950s.
9 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
After nearly four decades, girls are finally allowed to play Little League alongside boys. Little League Baseball eventually expands to include softball programs, too. "In the first couple of years, by the late 1970s one out of 25 Little Leaguers was a girl,: Van Auken says. "Today it's one in seven."
10 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
Regional realignment for the Little League World Series allows Australia to play in the tournament for the first time.
11 of 11Dante A. Ciampaglia
Little League began in 1939 with only three teams in one small community in Pennsylvania. Today, ore than two million boys and girls play on nearly 200,000 teams in more than 80 countries. There are also softball programs and the Little League Challenger Division, which allows physically and developmentally disabled kids to play ball. "The mission of the program is the same as it was 75 years ago," says Stephen D. Keener, President and CEO of Little League International. "Regardless of skill level or ability, if a child wants to play Little League there's a place for them to play."
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!