Pieces of Our Past: Little League Pledge
"I trust in God
I love my country
And will respect its laws
I will play fair
And strive to win
But win or lose
I will always do my best"
The “Little League Pledge,” written in 1954 by Peter J. McGovern, a late president of Little League, was introduced to players everywhere in February 1955 when it was included in the Little Leaguer Magazine.
The text has remained unchanged in the 54 years since then. It appears on the backs of Little League Rule Books and is prominently displayed in the Hall of Excellence in the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in Williamsport, Pa.
The pledge was drafted after Mr. McGovern became aware that local Little League programs were reciting the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance before games. Mr. McGovern wanted to give all leagues (not just those in the United States) a pledge reflecting some of the sentiments of the Pledge of Allegiance, minus the references to the United States, while adding the elements of sportsmanship and the desire to excel.
The text of the Little League Pledge was sent on Feb. 22, 1955, to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
President Eisenhower, a strong supporter of Little League, responded, “Thank you for … sending me the inspiring and fine pledge that, I understand, will now be repeated at the start of the Little League Baseball games. I am always glad to hear the plans and activities of Little League.”
Mr. McGovern, who was intensely patriotic, often exhorted volunteers to vote, have faith in the American system and to support the U.S. Armed Forces. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Little League Board of Directors settled on Flag Day, June 14, 1957, as Little League National Foundation Day. Since then, National Little League Week has been observed during the week of Flag Day.
On Foundation Day, regular season Little League games were to include ceremonies celebrating Little League. Mid-game collections – “passing the hat” were a tradition by then – would result in that day’s donations being forwarded to Little League’s headquarters.
In recent years, National Little League Week is observed with an Open House at the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum.
Little League programs sometimes choose to recite the Little League Pledge at the start of the season, and some recite it before every game. Some local leagues may choose to play or sing the National Anthem of the country in which the game is played. Others may add a prayer to their ceremonies.
Whether to recite the Little League Pledge, play or sing the National Anthem, or say a prayer, is entirely up to the local league’s board of directors. While many local leagues and districts include a recitation of the Little League Pledge in ceremonies, it is not, and has never been, required to be recited by any person involved with Little League Baseball or Softball.
The World of Little League Peter J. McGovern Museum and Official Store, 525 Route 15 Highway, just south of Williamsport, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The facility is accessible to the disabled.
Rates are $5 for adults; $3 for those 62 and older; $2 for children between the ages of 5 and 13. There is no fee for children 4 or younger. Group rates and tours are available.
For more information, call the World of Little League museum at (570) 326-3607; or visit www.LittleLeague.org/learn/museum.htm. Friend the Museum on Facebook, at: www.facebook.com/LittleLeagueMuseum or follow on Twitter, at: www.Twitter.com/LittleLeagueMuseum.