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Pieces of Our Past: February Week 2

Pieces of Our Past: February Week 2

League of Opportunity: Even in the Early Years, Little League Baseball Welcomed Any Child Who Wanted to Play Ball

Little League has been integrated since its earliest years. In fact, two players on the “Maynard Midgets,” considered the first Little League Baseball World Series champion, were African-American.

When Little League was founded by Carl E. Stotz in 1939, it was a neighborhood organization for boys who lived mostly west of Lycoming Creek, a predominantly white section of Williamsport.

No records were kept to identify players by race, but, according to Bill Bair, who as a teenager was Mr. Stotz’s assistant manager (for the Lundy Lumber team), the first three African-American players who are known to have played Little League are Joe Dunston, who was 12; Walt Dunston, 10; and George Whaley, 11.

Mr. Bair confirmed his recollection by researching the early rosters held by Original League in Williamsport, home of the first 12 Little League Baseball World Series. Mr. Bair served as Mr. Stotz’s assistant manager with Lundy Lumber through the 1942 season. After that point, Mr. Stotz took on more of an administrative role and Mr. Bair took over as the Lundy Lumber manager.

Walt Dunston and another African-American, Lewis Baity, were joined by teammates Tony Ingersoll, William Gallagher, Edwin Jonas, Don Stover, Jim Sughrue, Butch Laurenson, Robert Columbine, Jack Losch, Edward Ungard, Ray C. Singley Jr., Robert Smith and Frank Wool on the 1947 team from Maynard League in Williamsport that won the inaugural Little League National Tournament, the forerunner of the Little League World Series. Charles Scudder was manager and Harry Barry was assistant manager.

The Maynard Midgets team photograph is on the Wall of Champions in the World Series Room of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum. Although the term “World Series” was not used until 1949, the 1947 tournament is considered the first event in the World Series’ history.

The Maynard team defeated the Lock Haven All-Stars, 16-7. The best game of the tournament, however, came in the semifinal round when Maynard Little League defeated the Lincoln League Stars, 2-1. In that game, Don Stover struck out 19 batters in 10 innings (four extra innings for a Little League game).  Because Little League pitchers are now limited to 85 pitches in a game, his record – the most strikeouts in 10 innings – will likely stand forever.

In 1947, 12 teams participated in the National Tournament with most of them coming from within 20 miles of Williamsport.

In addition to the Maynard Midgets, Lock Haven All-Stars and Lincoln League Stars, other teams participating were: Williamsport (Original) Little League, Williamsport Sunday School League, Brandon Boys League, Milton Midget League, Montour Little League, Montgomery Little League, Jersey Shore All-Stars, Perry Lions and the Hammonton, N.J., All-Stars.

Members of the 1947 Maynard Midgets, in the front row, from left, are: Tony Ingersoll, William Gallagher, Edwin Jonas, Don Stover, Walt Dunston, Jim Sughrue and Butch Laurenson. In the middle row, are: Lewis Baity, Robert Columbine, Jack Losch, Edward Ungard and Ray C. Singley, Jr. In the third row, are: Harry Barry, Robert Smith, Frank Wool (Assistant Manager) and Charles Scudder (Manager).

The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum is located on the Little League International complex adjacent to the Howard J. Lamade Stadium where the annual Little League Baseball World Series Championship game is played.

The Museum, 525 Route 15 Highway, just south of Williamsport, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and by group appointment from Labor Day through Memorial Day. Its summer season begins after Memorial Day and the Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through June 31. From July 1 through Labor Day, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and noon to 5 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.