Pieces of Our Past: October Week 3
Message to the Future: Bud Vanderberg, Kalamazoo Helped Set the Foundation for Little League Softball’s Success
The Georgetown General Little League All-Stars from Jenison, Mich., won the 1986 Senior League Softball World Series and had such a wonderful time that the team decided to autograph a softball and present it to Tournament Director Bud Vanderberg.
Mr. Vanderberg later donated the softball to the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in South Williamsport, Pa. Written on the ball was the message: “Thanks, Mr. Vanderberg for a great tournament” and it is signed by members of the team which was 17-1 in championship play.
Softball became a component of the Little League program in 1974, and at the time of Georgetown General Little League’s championship season, Kalamazoo, Mich., was home for the Senior League Softball World Series. Kalamazoo, located in the southeastern part of the state, is now home to the Big League Softball World Series.
Bud Vanderberg of Kalamazoo, Mich., was first Tournament Director for the Senior League Softball World Series, and later the Big League Softball World Series. Mr. Vanderberg, a member of the Little League International Board of Directors, is pictured here receiving an award during the 24th Little League International Congress, convened in Houston, Texas in 2007. The Field complex in Kalamazoo, current home of the Big League Softball World Series, was dedicated in his name in 1985.
Mr. Vanderberg, who is the district administrator for the Kalamazoo area, recalled in an oral history for the Kalamazoo Public Library, that the softball program was one of the turning points for Little League there. Interest was high, he said, and the pilot program in 1974 included 450 girls in four leagues who played Little League for the first time.
Initially, the Softball World Series Championships were played at various locations throughout the United States, but as a result of efforts that Mr. Vanderberg spearheaded, Kalamazoo became the first official “home” of the Softball World Series.
“Softball needed a home,” he explained during a telephone interview. “I came up with a proposal and it was accepted.”
When first designated, Kalamazoo hosted both the Little League and Senior League Softball World Series Championships. After the Little League Softball World Series was moved to Portland, Ore., Kalamazoo became home of Senior League and Big League Softball. The Senior League World Series was moved to Kentucky, and since 2001 has been played in Delaware.
Mr. Vanderberg’s efforts to bring championship play to Kalamazoo did not go unnoticed and in 1985, the softball park was named Vanderberg Park in his honor.
Mr. Vanderberg’s affiliation with Little League began in 1958, when his son, Jack, started playing.
“He graduated from senior league ball (there was no big league baseball) and I didn’t stop (being affiliated with Little League),” Mr. Vanderberg said.
Mr. Vanderberg has held a variety of positions including coach, manager and league president before he became a district administrator. In 1984, he was named to the Little League Board of Directors, a position he still holds.
This research was made possible through a General Operating Support Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
The Museum is located at 525 Route 15 Highway, just south of Williamsport and on the complex where the Little League Baseball World Series is played. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and other times by group appointment. After Memorial Day the hours are expanded for the summer season. Please call (570) 326-3607 for current hours or look online at www.LittleLeague.org/museum.
The Museum is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days.
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.