Little League Baseball, Inc. is a nonprofit youth sports program created to assist youth in developing discipline, teamwork, courage, loyalty, good character, and strong physical health. Little League was “designed to develop superior citizens rather than superior athletes.”1
In 1938, nearly a hundred years after the game of baseball was first played, Carl Stotz decided to organize a baseball league for pre-teens in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.2 That first year Carl organized a neighborhood team and together they experimented with field sizes and types of equipment.
The next year, Carl and his wife Grayce were joined by George and Annabelle Bebble, Bert and Eloise Bebble, and John and Peggy Lindemuth to form a board of directors. Carl, George, and Bert each managed a team and the first Little League games were played. They were sponsored by Lycoming Dairy, Lundy Lumber, and Jumbo Pretzel for a combined fee of $30 to help pay for equipment and uniforms for 30 players.3
Over the next seven years the Little League movement grew to 12 leagues, each with their own geographical boundaries and all within Pennsylvania. In 1947, the first league outside of Pennsylvania was formed in New Jersey.4 That was also the first year of the National Little League Tournament, later renamed to be the Little League World Series.
The first leagues outside of the United States were created in 1950 at U.S. military installations – one on each end of the Panama Canal. However, it was in 1951 that the first permanent Little League outside the United States was organized in British Columbia, Canada. Forty eight years later, by 1999, Little League had spread to 100 countries.5
With over 1500 leagues in 1952, Peter J. McGovern became President of Little League Baseball and the Little League Board of Directors Chairman. An internal dispute between Carl and the Little League Board of Directors concluded in 1956 with Carl ending all his involvement with the Little League organization.6 Also in 1956, both the Little League Foundation and the Little League Congress were founded.
In the United States Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously approved giving Little League Baseball a Federal Charter in 1964. Thus Little League joined the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and Boys Clubs of America in this federal incorporation status.7
Since 1938, Little League has grown from 1 league to over 7,000 leagues and from 30 players to over 2.5 million players.8 By 1968 there were three categories of players: Little Leagues for ages 9-12, Senior Leagues for ages 13-15, and Big Leagues for ages 16-18. The Junior League Baseball was added in 1979 for 13 year olds.
In 1974, girls were allowed to participate with the addition of the Little League Softball (ages 9-12) and Senior League Softball (ages 13-15) programs.9 Six years later, in 1980, Big League Softball for ages 16-18 was formed. By that time the Softball Leagues had over 140,000 participants.10
After over 40 years of Little League games, the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum was established at the Little League International Headquarters in Williamsport. Two years later Peter died; he had led the Little League for 32 years. Six years after Peter's death, the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum Hall of Excellence was inaugurated in 1988.11
Over the years, Little League involvement led to improvements in the sport of baseball. An early example is the remote-controlled electronic scoreboard that was first built for the original Little League field by Mac McCloskey in 1945.12 Other improvements included the protective helmet (1959) and the aluminum bat (1971).
The 1990s began with a new division of Little League, the Challenger division for children ages 4-22 with mental and physical disabilities.13 Other divisions include the Baseball Division, Boy Softball Division, Girls Softball Division, and the Training & Development Division. The Little League Education Program for Managers and Coaches began in 1996, the Little League Parent Orientation Program began in 2002, an online coaching resource began in 2008, and an online umpire resource center began in 2010.14
The Little League is organized on four levels: the local, the district, the regional, and the international. On the local level, each league has a constitution, a board of directors, geographical boundaries, teams, coaches, umpires, and volunteers. Little League's mission to develop the character of all children means that no eligible candidate will be turned away and that every child will play in every game.15
The district level consists of 10-20 leagues which compete in a district tournament. There are five regions in the United States and similar regions throughout the world with offices in Puerto Rico, Canada, Japan, and Poland. They also have regional tournaments, which yield the finalist teams for the Little League World Series games.
In the Baseball Division, the newer Tee ball baseball teams (ages 4-7), the minor leagues (ages 7-12), the 9 to 10 year old teams serve the needs of younger children and children new to the game of baseball. They continue to have the Little League (or Major League) for ages 9-12, Junior League for ages 13-14, the Senior League for ages 14-16, and the Big League for ages 16-18.16
The Boys Softball Division and the Girls Softball Division both include Tee Ball Leagues, Minor Leagues, Little Leagues (Major Leagues), Senior Leagues, and Big Leagues.17
- 1. “The Mission of Little League.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/historyandmission/mission.htm > 12 Oct. 2011.
- 2. “History of Little League.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/historyandmission.htm > 12 Oct. 2011.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. “Little League Chronology.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/historyandmission/chronology.htm > 12 Oct. 2011.
- 5. Ibid.
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. “The Federal Incorporation of Little League.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/historyandmission/federal.htm > 12 Oct. 2011.
- 8. Note: Data is from years 1939 and 2010 respectively. Op.cit., “Little League Around the World.”
- 9. Op.cit., “Little League Chronology.”
- 10. Op.cit., “Little League Around the World.”
- 11. Op.cit., “Little League Chronology.”
- 12. Ibid.
- 13. “Challenger Division.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/divisions/challenger.htm > 30 Oct. 2011.
- 14. Op.cit., “Little League Chronology.”
- 15. “Structure of Little League Baseball and Softball.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/structure.htm > 12 Oct. 2011.
- 16. “Baseball Divisions.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/divisions/baseball.htm > 30 Oct. 2011.
- 17. “Boys Softball Divisions.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/divisions/softball-boys.htm > 30 Oct. 2011 and “Girls Softball Divisions.” Little League Online. < http://www.littleleague.org/learn/about/divisions/softball-girls.htm > 30 Oct. 2011.