A Piece of the Past - July 2005
That year was the first time home plate in Little League increased from slightly wider than 14 inches to the standard 17-inch size. It was the same year that the pitching distance was increased from 44 feet to 46 feet.
According to Dr. Creighton Hale, vice president of Little League and director of research, it was determined that the pitchers throwing the ball about 70 miles per hour get the ball up to the plate in less time than a big league pitcher who throws from 60.5 feet at 100 mph.
“By moving the (pitcher’s plate) back two more feet, we will be giving Little League boys just about as much time to swing, proportionately, as the big leaguers have,” according to Dr. Hale’s reasoning published by columnist Dick Young in the New York Daily News on August 24, 1958.
The home plate used by the first Little Leaguers in 1939 was carved out of rubber that founder Carl Stotz found in his father’s garage. That plate, the property of Mr. Stotz’s daughter, Karen Stotz Myers, was displayed on June 18, 2005, at the museum during an Open House and reception for Little Leaguers who played between 1939 and 1954.
The 1959 plate, on exhibit in the museum’s World Series Room, was there for the dedication of the field prior to the championship game between Hamtramck, Mich., and Auburn, Calif.
Only a year earlier, the South Williamsport site of the series was a “mass of rubble, dirt and stones. It looked like anything but a baseball diamond,” according to a description in the August 30, 1959, Grit newspaper. The fences were at 200 feet from home plate, compared with 175 and 188 feet at Original Field where the first 12 World Series tournaments were played.
The news account reported the cooperation of numerous community organizations resulted in the field’s construction in time for the 1959 series. The complex boasts “a spanking new stadium, a huge parking lot and the beginning of construction of a building as Little League headquarters.”
The 29-acre site in South Williamsport was purchased with $35,000 given by the Lamade family (which owned Grit Publishing) to the Williamsport Foundation so the land could be purchased from Lycoming College in 1958.
Actual field construction began in April 1959. The ballpark officially was named the Howard J. Lamade Memorial Field during dedication ceremonies prior to the championship game. That field was razed after the 1968 Series, and the new park was renamed Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
An executive of Grit Publishing Co. for many years, Mr. Lamade served as a member of the board of directors of Little League Baseball for eight years and was vice president of the board at the time of his death in 1958.
The 1959 series was a special time for Arthur “Pinky” Deras, a pitcher for the Hamtramck, Mich., team. Art, who had turned in 10 no-hit ball games in season play, struck out 14 batters and walked only two in his three-hit championship game effort. He further aided his team's cause with a three-run homer in the fifth inning -- his 33rd of the season.
Art entered the series with an ERA average of near zero in some 100 innings of league and tournament pitching. The Michigan team won all three of its games in the championship series, with Art pitching two of them and striking out 31 of a possible 36 batters in the two contests he pitched. He also allowed only four hits and gave up no runs. Hamtramck won 5-0 against San Juan, Puerto Rico; 7-1 against Oahu, Hawaii; and 12-0 against Auburn.
The New York Times described Art Deras as a lanky boy pitcher weighing 136 pounds and throwing a baseball at 70 miles per hour.
Mr. Deras, now a retired police officer, recently described his time at the Little League World Series as a special time. Although he recalls the championship game as a “little scary,” he said he had pitched all season and was programmed to pitch every other game. On the other days he played shortstop.
The museum, 525 Route 15 Highway, South Williamsport, is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The hours change from Labor Day through Memorial Day to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The facility is accessible to the disabled.
Rates are $5 for adults; $3 for those 62 and older; $1.50 for children between the ages of 15 and13. There is no fee for children 4 or younger. Group rates and tours are available. For more information, call the museum at 570-326-3607, or click here for more information.