Pieces of Our Past: December Week 4
What a Year: 1953 Was Big for Sam Cooksey, Little League in Front Royal, Va.
Thirteen was a lucky number for Samuel Cooksey when he played in the 1953 Little League World Series at Original Field in Williamsport.
Not only did he get to play in the Series, but he pitched a two-hit game that went into extra innings, hit a home run, met Carl E. Stotz, the founder of Little League Baseball, who autographed his home run ball; and was introduced to Baseball Hall of Famer Cy Young.
No wonder he had wonderful memories of his Little League World Series experience. As a boy, he was the first Little League pitcher to throw against a team from outside of the United States when his Front Royal (Va.) Little League team played Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, during the World Series. The Williamsport Gazette and Bulletin called the game Front Royal played against Vancouver “a thriller.”
The news account continues: “Pitcher Sam Cooksey, a sharp lefty, won his own game for the Virginians with a single to centerfield.” The southpaw gave up two hits in the fourth inning but the Front Royal team won in eight innings, 3-2.”
After defeating Canada in the first international Little League competition, the team from Front Royal lost to eventual champions Birmingham, Ala., in the semifinals by the score of 10-2. Birmingham went on to win the World Series by beating Schenectady, N.Y., 1-0.
The boys from the small town of 7,500 people represented not only their city, but countless other communities in the Shenandoah Valley. Ultimately, Front Royal finished their Little League Baseball World Series journey by beating Camp Hill, Pa., 3-0, to take third place in the tournament. The winning run in that game coming on a solo home run by Cooksey in the fourth inning.
The 1953 Little Leaguers were honored with the presence of Hall of Famer Cy Young at their games. Mr. Young, who pitched from 1890-1911 and is still Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in career victories, watched every World Series game and even talked to Cooksey.
“I’ve got pictures with Cy Young,” Mr. Cooksey said with an air of pride. “I mean, this man had 511 wins.”
Mr. Cooksey, who still calls Front Royal home, was on the team that played in the first game at the Bing Crosby Stadium when it opened in Front Royal, and in 2006, he threw the first pitch when the renovated stadium reopened.
Recently, Mr. Cooksey donated some of his personal memorabilia to the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in Williamsport, Pa.
Mr. Cooksey’s most prized possession from his team’s World Series trip is his home run baseball that is signed by Little League’s founder. The baseball with Mr. Stotz’s autograph is on display in the World Series Timeline exhibit at the museum.
When Mr. Cooksey and his wife, Sandy, decided to make the donation during their trip to the 2006 Little League Baseball World Series. The Cookseys came to Williamsport with the Front Royal All-Star Challenger Division team that played an exhibition game during the Series.
The following year, a tattered box arrived at the museum. Lovingly held together with tape, it was evident that Little League played a huge role in Mr. Cooksey’s life. On the lid of the three-inch deep box is the name “Sammy Cooksey” written in pencil.
It also bears the following:
“Little League Champions
Welcome to Williamsport, Pennsylvania and the 1953 World Series.
GOOD LUCK! – May The Best Team Win!”
Carefully lifting the lid, one finds a name badge for the “Seventh Annual Little League World Series, Williamsport, Penna. Aug. 25-28, 1953.” There is a card with the words “We’re all ‘Fired Up’ for Little League. Blow the Siren” that was the compliments of the Williamsport Community Trade Association.
There is a skullcap beanie in red, white and blue – Little League colors. A red pennant with “Williamsport, PA., Home of Little League Baseball,” emblazoned in gold also features a boy swinging a bat. The pennant proudly bears a stamp that was manufactured in the United States by Keezer Inc., Plaistow, N.H.
A smaller box “Your Souvenir, Host Breakfast, Little League World Series, H.E. Humphries, Jr.,” contains an ink pen; mechanical pencil with a tiny baseball figure visible inside it; a keychain with a bat, ball and baseball glove, and a mechanical pencil shaped like a bat bearing the words “1953 Little League World Series, Williamsport, PA” and an emblem with “Louisville Slugger, Hillerich and Bradsby Co., Louisville, KY.”
Mr. Cooksey also donated a 1953 Little League World Series program and a Little League Magazine from the same date.
The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum, 525 Route 15 Highway, just south of 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. After Labor Day in September, the hours change to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on 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 5 and 13. There is no fee for children 4 or younger. Group rates and tours are available. The museum also offers birthday parties and after-hours facility rentals.
The museum is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days.
For more information, call the museum at (570) 326-3607; or visit http://www.littleleague.org/Learn_More/museum.htm.