Wiliamsport will forever be synonymous with Little League Baseball.
The Pennsylvania city located a three-hour drive between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is the birthplace of Little League, dating back to 1939 when a lumberyard clerk named Carl E. Stotz gathered together his two nephews and some of their buddies and came up with rules and regulations.
The first Little League World Series was played there in 1947, featuring just teams from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The 12 and under tournament moved to its main location at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, which is just across the West Branch Susquehanna River in South Williamsport, in 1959. You can take the Carl E. Stotz Memorial Little League Bridge to get there from Williamsport.
ABC started televising the final in 1963. ESPN has come on board, and with more games available on various platforms, viewers have kept tuning in. Honolulu’s 13-3, mercy-ruled, four-inning win over Curaçao for the title year was the least-watched title game in two decades, according to sportmediawatch.com, and it still drew 2.5 million viewers.
This year’s Little League World Series gets going Wednesday — the first one in eight years and the second in 17 seasons that won’t have a B.C. team representing Canada. North Regina, who were hosting the nationals, beat reigning Canadian champion Vancouver Little Mountain 4-3 last Thursday to win that qualifier. North Regina rallied after dropping the first three games of the tournament.
Here are five other things to know about the Little League World Series.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Little League can tend to be a catch-all phrase for youth baseball, but it’s just one brand of the game. Youth baseball is cola. Little League is the Coke or the Pepsi. The other main version is governed through Baseball Canada, and the baseball folk tend to call it minor, or minor baseball.
Little League Canada lists 126 teams in B.C. this season at the 12 and under category. Baseball Canada’s last complete numbers they offered were from 2019, and they had Baseball B.C. with 630 teams at 11 and under, and 324 teams at 13 and under.
Little League also had 493 teams at 12 and under across the country this season, with Alberta (159), Ontario (153) and B.C. making up for nearly 70 per cent of those squads.
WHAT’S IN AN AGE GROUP?
There are various other championships in both the Little League and Baseball Canada worlds. Nothing gets the attention like what goes on in South Williamsport. Why that one? There’s an argument that was the first age group when Stotz was starting out — so having that tournament as the showcase is on brand.
There’s a charm to it all: they’re kids. Their games are also often poised and polished, in part because it’s their last year on the smaller field, utilizing 60-foot base paths.
“They can really command that sized field,” said Vancouver Canadians president Andy Dunn.
The move up to 70-foot base paths at age 13 is part of working their way to the traditional 90-foot basepaths.
WEST IS BEST
B.C. has made 30 of Canada’s 65 trips to the Little League World Series. The 1998 Langley side, featuring fireballing pitcher Jeff Duda, was the last teams to make a deep run, finishing third after losing 3-2 to Japan in the semifinals. Duda had 17 strikeouts that game.
Duda, 37, has been coaching at the Okotoks Dawgs Academy in Okotoks, Alta., since 2014. He chased the pro ball dream for a time. He was 15-1, with a 2.09 earned run average and 120 strikeouts in 116 innings, in 2012 with the independent league Quebec Capitales but couldn’t get past that level.
Jason Bay (Trail, 1990) and Adam Loewen (Kennedy-Surrey, 1996) are among those who have gone on to play in the majors. NHL player turned broadcaster Ray Ferraro (Trail, 1976) is another Little League World Series alum.
Little Mountain was 2-2 last year, the third team from B.C. in four years to finish that high.
The 1990 Trail finished third as well. The best finish for a Canadian side belongs to the 1965 Stoney Creek, Ont., squad that lost in the final.
BIG BATTLE FOR LITTLE LEAGUE
According its website, Little League Baseball — along with Little League Softball — is now played in about 6,500 communities in more than 80 countries around the world.
Stotz died in Williamsport in 1992. He was 82.
His New York Times obit brings up his messy split from the organization, explaining that by 1955 Stotz “had become so disenchanted by what he saw as an increasingly impersonal national organization that he filed suit to regain control of the movement from the professionals he had installed.
“There was an out-of-court settlement that left the professionals in charge, and Mr. Stotz, though invariably invited to the annual World Series and the official Little League museum, just as invariably declined. He later formed a new league for Williamsport youngsters and established his own museum in a converted tool shed behind his house.”
REGINA GETS FORMER RUNNER-UP ORGANIZATION TO KICK OFF THIS YEAR
North Regina will open up the tournament against the Asia-Pacific rep, Kuei-Shan Little League from Chinese Taipei, on Thursday.
This will be Kuei-Shan Little League’s third trip to tournament after an appearance in 2012 and a runner-up finish in 2009. In its two World Series appearances, the league has combined for a 5-4 overall record at the Little League World Series.
If they win that, they play Monday. If they lose, they play Saturday.
The tournament final is Aug. 27.
Summer subscription sale: Our in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. For a limited time, you can get full online access to the Vancouver Sun and The Province, along with the National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites, for just $40 for one year or $1 a week for 52 weeks. Support our journalism by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.