Sunday, August 1, 2021

The First Little League World Series, Williamsport 1947

The first Little League  tournament was held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, August 21, 1947. The Little League program was created by Carl E. Stotz,, in 1939 in Williamsport, Pa.
Carl Stotz, with his nephews

One afternoon in 1938, Carl Stotz tripped over a lilac bush, while playing catch with his nephews.  As he sat on his back porch to rub the bruise forming on his leg, the two boys, Jimmy, and Harold "Major" Gehron, continued to throw the ball in the air while imitating sportscaster Sol Wolf.
Sol Woodbridge "Woody" Wolf

"Sol's broadcasts of the game up at Bowman Field were so exciting, so interest to those little boys.  After they head him announce a game, they would to in their back yard and play catch and make the same statements he did.  To Sol, the bases were never loaded - the ducks were on the pond.  The batter never walked - he drew an Annie Oakley" said Stotz.  "Now this next thing is hard to explain unless you have experienced it yourself sometimes in your life, where all at once something comes to you that they call a flashback... There it is in one scene.  Immediately passed before me the conditions under which I played baseball,  And that's when I said to them, 'How would you like to play n a regular team, with uniforms, a new ball for every game, and bats you could really swing?'  And they said, ' Who would be play?  Will people come watch us?  Do you think a band would ever come to play?"

An artists depiction of the moment when Carl Stotz first envisioned Little League Baseball.

June 1940

Within a year, three teams had been formed: Lycoming Dairy, Jumbo Pretzel, and Lundy Lumber.

The first Little League game was played on June 6 1939

The Lycoming Dairy Team, managed by Carl Stotz
Jack Lundy was Stotz's employer, at Lundy Lumber.  Lundy became the leagues third sponsor, in 1939.  Lunch Lumber still sponsors a team at Original League in Williamsport.  Jack Lundy continued to serve on Little League Baseball's international board of directors until his retirement in 2000.

The Lundy Lumber Team, with Team Manager George Bebble in back

The Jumbo Pretzel Team

Lycoming Dairy Farms "Champions"
Front L-R:  Major Gehron, Dick Smith, Al Yearick, Jim Gehron
Middle L-R: Fred Sanders, Tuck Fraizer, Bill Bair, Dick Hornberger, Max Miller
Carl Stotz in back

Stotz arranged the schedule in halves, allowing for a slow starting team to improve and still vie for the title.  The first year, Lycoming Dairy was the first half champion, and Lundy Lumber the second half champions.

Al "Sonny" Yearick was the first Little League player to sign a professional baseball contract.

Demorest Field
The first games were played on a lot owned by the Williamsport Textile Company at the corner of Memorial Avenue and Demorest Street. The field was called Demorest field, and was used until the league moved to Memorial Field in 1942.  A 4th team, Richardson Buick, was added in 1940.

"Throughout the United States, leagues patterned after Carl's brainchild are springing up like weeds in a flower bed" - The Williamsport Sun, 1946

August, 1946

In 1946, the league grew to 12 teams. A year later, there were 17 different leagues, each consisting of many teams.  With so much competition, the organization decided to create a tournament, allowing the best teams from each region the chance to compete for a championship.

In 1947, the first Little League tournament  was held, in Williamsport.   

The program for the first tournament included team photographs, and a schedule of events. 

The 12 teams that participated in the first series in 1947 were: Williamsport (Original) Little League; Williamsport Sunday School League; Maynard Midget League (Williamsport); Lincoln League Stars (Williamsport); Brandon Boys League (Williamsport); Milton (Pa.) Midget League; Montour Little League (Montoursville, Pa.); Montgomery (Pa.) Little League; Jersey Shore (PA) All Stars; Lock Haven (PA) All Stars; Hammonton (NJ) All Stars; and West Shore Original Little League (Enola, Pa.). Of the 12 teams, only 11 played, as the Montgomery team had to back out at the last minute.

"Here is a picture taken at Williamsport after Lock Haven had been presented with the trophy for finishing as the runner-up in the game with the Williamsport Maynard Midget League All-Stars, who won the National Little League title.  In the group are the players managers, league officers and others who helped to make the Lock Haven circuit a success.  To the left is Tommy Richardson, Eastern Baseball League President, who presented the trophy to J. Gordon Fowler, Little League Prexy"  - Lock Haven Express, August 1947

2,500 fans attended the championship game, where they  saw a total of 23 runs scored as Maynard Midgets from Williamsport  defeated the neighboring city of Lock Haven, 16-7.

1947 Maynard Midgets

Tony Ingersoll, Maynard 3rd baseman, batted 1,000 for the day, going 4 for 4. Jack Losch, center-fielder for the winners, later starred at the University of Miami and with the Green Bay Packers 

Charlie Scudder managed the Maynard Midgets along with his friend Harry Berry, though neither man had a son on the team.   "Harry and I worked the third shift at Bethlehem Steel. I got home at 7 a.m., and I either napped for a while or stayed up until the games started. I made them toe the mark. They had to be someplace at a certain time to practice, and they were there. All of them were really good boys....  I picked 14 kids who could hit.  I saw too many teams that couldn't hit. Most of the time we just practiced hitting. I didn't care how many runs the other team could score. I could score more, " Scudder said.

"After winning the semifinal, we went across the street to Bowman Field, where the
Williamsport minor league team played," recalled Ed Jonas, a  Maynard outfielder. "We were able to have chocolate milk and peanut-butter sandwiches in the clubhouse. I said it couldn't get any better than this."

September 1947

Within a few years time, Stoutz's Little league program had spread to all 48 states.  Today, there have been 28 different countries that have sent little league teams to South Williamsport to compete in the annual world series.  

The first corporate sponsor of Little League was U.S. Rubber.  The company asked Stotz not to put sponsors on uniforms, a tradition that continues today.

A close up of the banner in the above photo, showing United States Rubber Company as a sponsor.

Mr. Stotz had these posters printed on heavy stock paper for souvenirs at his Little League Baseball museum that he started in his backyard after he split with official Little League in 1956.

"Stotz was commissioner of Little League until 1955. Carl Stotz, a highly principled man, left Little League Baseball Inc. in late November 1955 over honest and valid philosophical differences centered on commercialization and central control issues with the management of L.L.B. Inc., of which Carl's conscience, would not permit him to remain. From that point on Carl continued an active relationship with "Original League" until his passing in 1992." - several newspaper articles  

Stotz sued his own league to stop it from expanding beyond the 48 teams Stotz felt were already too many. Stotz was then counter-sued in 1956, when a federal court barred him from forming a rival youth league.

In 1957, a team from Montery Mexico became the first International team to win the series.  Not only were they the first international team, but their pitcher, Angel Macias, made Little League World Series history by pitching a perfect game.  He retired all 18 batters in order - including 11 strike outs, sealing the 4-0 win.  Due to modern day pitch count limitation, his record is unlikely to ever be broken.

The Little League Baseball World Series moved to South Williamsport in 1959 when Howard J. Lamade Stadium was opened. 
One room museum at Original Field.

In 1963, ABC began televising the final game of the Little League World Series.  In the 1980s, ESPN also became televising series games.

During the annual World Series, now held in Williamsport, the Original League sponsors an open house.  "Volunteers raise the green plywood awnings of the concession stand and sell hot dogs and sodas while exhibition games while exhibition games are played on the two fields.  Karen, the youngest daughter of founder Carl Stotz, often helps at the concession stand or gives tours of the small one-room museum." 

The outfield fence is still 180 feet, so the smaller boys and girls can hit home runs, just the way Carl Stotz envisioned it.
Original Field, 1951

"The tidy stadium at Original Field, where the team from Maynard won its championship, is still used. But the facility is minuscule compared with Lamade Stadium, the huge complex across town at Little League headquarters where the Series is now played before nearly 40,000 fans and a worldwide TV audience."

Memorial at Original Field


For More Local Stories & History Of Williamsport

Find More Local History & Stories From Nearby Towns Here:

Lancaster Era, 1946

Carl Stotz, Age 13, second from the right in the front row
Stotz played baseball for the St John's Lutheran Sunday School League

Aug 30, 1947

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