The Origin of the Little League Baseball® World Series
Since its inception, Little League® has shown to be a microcosm of society, reflecting cultural and historical trends. In 75 years, the “idea” of Little League, devised in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, by Founder Carl E. Stotz in 1938, with its first season in 1939; has rewarded players, families, volunteers and communities with impactful life lessons centered around the games of baseball and softball.
Understandably, the idea took some time to resonate. By 1946, there were only 12 leagues patterned after Mr. Stotz’s model.
In 1947, Mr. Stotz and the first local Little League Board of Directors, decided to organize a tournament for all Little League programs (there were 17) and called it the National Little League Tournament, later to be known as the Little League Baseball® World Series.
The 12 teams that participated in the first National Little League Tournament (World 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 (N.J.) All-Stars
- West Shore Original Little League (Enola, Pa.)
The champion was the Maynard Midget League of Williamsport, which defeated the Lock Haven All-Stars, 16-7.
More than 2,500 spectators witnessed the first championship game, and the results were printed in newspapers around the country. The publicity helped spread Little League nationwide.
The rush of excitement surrounded Little League, as it poured over state and national borders. By 1950, the first international Little Leagues had been established at either end of the Panama Canal and in Canada, prompting the National Tournament to be renamed the Little League Baseball® World Series.
In 1959, after 12 Little League Baseball® World Series tournaments had been played on the small field at Brown Memorial Park in Williamsport, the tournament (and the headquarters of Little League) moved five miles east from its original location and across the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to South Williamsport. There the original Howard J. Lamade Field was built. A decade later, wooden bleachers were replaced by concrete grandstands and the stadium began to resemble what so many recognize today.
Fifteen years later, in 1974, Mr. Stotz’s “Little League Baseball for Boys” became Little League Baseball and Softball as girls were welcomed into the program, and Little League Softball® debuted.
To serve the public interest, Little League has added other divisions of play through the years. Teenage baseball divisions (Intermediate 50/70, Junior, Senior and Big League); and Challenger Division for physically and developmentally challenged children have extended the program’s outreach. Mirroring the baseball program, softball too has tournament play, including a World Series for players of Little League Major Division age through Big League.
By 1997, the brainchild of Mr. Stotz had steadily grown to include nearly 7,500 leagues in more than 100 countries with nearly three million children playing Little League Baseball or Little League Softball. One million volunteers operate and support the activities of these local leagues.
As the result of the program’s remarkable worldwide expansion, and Little League International’s initiative to broaden the opportunity for children to participate in the Little League Baseball World Series, a second Little League Baseball® World Series stadium, Little League Volunteer Stadium, was opened in 2001; and the tournament field was doubled from eight to 16 teams. Currently, eight teams represent regions in the United States, and eight are from international regions.
There are now seven Little League World Series tournaments played every year.
Each of Little League’s seven World Series events operates under different tournament formats, with varying numbers of teams from regions around the world participating. Throughout the summer months, hundreds of thousands of games are played to determine seven world champions, making the Little League International Tournament, the world’s largest elimination tournament.