Pieces of Our Past: October 2008 - Week 4
Most baseball fans are familiar with the ceremonial singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” during the seventh-inning stretch at Major League Baseball games, but many Little League fans do not know that Little League founder Carl E. Stotz wrote a similar ode to Little League.
This year is the 100th anniversary of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and the 66th anniversary of Mr. Stotz’s “We’re Playing in the Little League Today.”
A copy of the sheet music is in the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in Williamsport, Pa.
Written by Mr. Stotz in 1942, three years after he founded the Little League program, the music for “We’re Playing in the Little League Today” was composed by his nephew, Jimmy Gehron, and the arrangement was by Yvonne Mitchell.
The explanation of how the song came to be is included on the sheet music.
Mr. Stotz, who was employed by Confair’s Pepsi-Cola/7-Up Bottling Company, was at work in Athens, Pa., and missed the opening game of the fourth season on June 4, 1942.
As he made the return trip to Williamsport, his thoughts were about having missed the first game of the season. He started singing about Little League, fitting a tune to rhyming words.
Although Mr. Stotz had not imagined what he felt was a satisfactory chorus, he shared the song with his nephews, Jimmy and Major Gehron.
Forty-two years later in 1984, Mr. Stotz recalled that he was speaking by telephone to Jimmy Gehron, who asked, “Uncle Tuck (Mr. Stotz), what ever happened to the ‘Little League’ song?”
“His question surprised me,” Mr. Stotz wrote. “A few months earlier, I had come across a sheet of tablet paper on which the two verses were written – no chorus.”
Little League’s founder reported that he was amazed that his nephew remembered the song after all of those years.
At Mr. Stotz’s request, his nephew then sang it to him while, “chording on the piano in his self-taught manner.”
“Major and I often sang it together when we were kids,” Jimmy Gehron said. Later, Jimmy sent Mr. Stotz a cassette recording of him singing.
Several months later, Mr. Stotz came across a newspaper advertisement that read: “Rose Valley songwriter will put music to ‘your’ words.”
After talking with Yvonne Mitchell, who was familiar with Little League through her grandmother, Elizabeth Lapka Helminiak, the arrangement was finished. Mrs. Helminiak and her sister, Christiana Lapka, had hand-embroidered the Little League uniforms for the four existing teams in 1940.
In addition to the information about the song’s origin, the sheet music also contains a copy of the song written by Mr. Stotz. It is dated 1942. Only a few lyric changes were made before the song was copyrighted in 1985.
The musical composition also shows a photograph of Jimmy Gehron at the piano with his dog. The copy at the museum is signed by Mr. Stotz.
We’re Playing in Little League Today”
First Verse: Oh, we’re not the New York Yankees playing in the Major League and we’re not the Brooklyn Dodgers that we’ll say/But we’ve made the grade in baseball before we reached our teens and we’re playing in the Little League today.
Second Verse: We have power, we have speed we have deception and the boys up in the Majors have the same/We can hit ’em/We can bunt ’em with perfection/And we’re gaining more experience every game.
Chorus: Little League/Little League/Oh, there is none better than the Little League/Little League; Little League/Little League/Oh, there is none better than the Little League.
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. 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.
For more information, call the museum at (570) 326-3607; or visit www.littleleague.org/Learn_More/museum.htm.