Pieces of Our Past: October Week 1
The International Game: Little League’s Expansion Abroad Began in 1950 with Leagues at Each end of Panama Canal
A look at some of the historical uniforms displayed throughout the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in South Williamsport, Pa., reveals when Little League Baseball became an international phenomenon.
One uniform in particular highlights one of the first chartered programs outside the United States - the Panama Canal Zone.
Two leagues, one on each side of the canal, were established in 1950 and aptly named the Pacific and Atlantic Little Leagues of Balboa. The canal, one of the largest and most difficult engineering feats ever made, connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It eliminated the treacherous trip around Cape Horn, the southern-most tip of South America.
Coached by Joe Cicero, a Major League player who played for the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics, the Pacific league, made the run in its area and moved to the United States Eastern bracket.
At the time when international teams were first introduced, they first had to play their way through one of the American brackets to earn a berth at the World Series championship games.
Although the team from the Pacific Little League ended up losing in the regional tournament that year, it made a big step for those teams wishing to form outside of the United States.
The team from Panama was an international team but did have some ties to the United States. Players on the team were children of United States military personnel and people working on the canal who were stationed at the military bases on the canal.
The first team to advance to the World Series from Panama was the Willys R. Cook League from Bethania in 1984. To date, five teams from Panama have made it to Williamsport.
Not only does the uniform mark one of the historical events in Little League’s history, it also is an example of how uniforms have changed throughout the years. This uniform is composed of heavy wool, while uniforms today are made up of a more breathable material.
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 is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and by group appointment from Labor Day through Memorial Day. Its hours are extended during the summer season. 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.