President Bush, Little League Teams from Brooklyn, Los Angeles Honor Jackie Robinson at White House Tee Ball Game
Players from the Los Angeles team are
thrilled to meet Dugout, Little League’s mascot.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 15, 2007) – With icons from Major League
Baseball and the Negro Leagues to help out, President George W. Bush
and two Little League Tee Ball teams from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Los
Angeles retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 on the South Lawn of the
White House today.
The ceremony was followed by a spirited Tee Ball game between the
Highlanders of Brooklyn’s Inner City Little League, and the Dodgers
of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Little League.
In keeping with the tradition of Tee Ball on the South Lawn games,
no score was kept. Each player on both teams played on defense and
batted once in the one-inning game, followed by a picnic on the
South Lawn for players and families. A baseball autographed by
President George W. Bush was presented – by the president himself –
to each player, manager, and coach.
All the players on both teams wore the No. 42 in a tribute to the
legacy left to all of sports by the late Mr. Robinson, who broke
baseball’s “color barrier” when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers
in 1947. The team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, and Mr. Robinson was
inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962
Others attending included First Lady Laura Bush, Attorney General
Alberto Gonzalez, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne,
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, and
U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia.
From the baseball world, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, the first
African-American to become a Major League manager, was the honorary
commissioner. Former Dodgers at the game included Don Newcombe and
Tommy Lasorda. The play-by-play announcer was ESPN’s Karl Ravech.
Len Coleman, former president of the National League and current
trustee of the Little League Foundation, presented the President
with a Jackie Robinson jersey, on behalf of the Jackie Robinson
Foundation and the Robinson family. Mr. Coleman was named chairman
of the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1996. A graduate of the Little
League Baseball program in Montclair, N.J., Mr. Coleman was
enshrined in the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence in 1996.
Presenting the game ball to President Bush at the start of the game
was Challenger Division player Matthew Hearon of Tuckahoe (Va.)
Little League. The National Anthem was performed by R&B recording
Both of the teams are from leagues that are part of the Little
League Urban Initiative. The program now operates in more than 80
cities in the U.S., serving more than 33,000 players. The goal of
the Little League Urban Initiative is to use the ball field as a
classroom, to help children in urban areas learn the values of
discipline, teamwork, self-esteem, sportsmanship, and fair play –
values that will guide them into adulthood. The program also touches
the lives of the volunteer adults who dedicate themselves to
improving their communities and families.
The teams were able to make the trip thanks to some help from some
good friends. Expenses for the game itself were provided by Subway
Restaurants, Musco Sports Lighting, New Era Cap Co., and AIG
Insurance. Also attending the game as a guest of Little League
International was Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle.
Helping to make the trip possible for the Los Angeles team were two
trustees of the Little League Foundation (former Dodgers president
Peter O’Malley, and the chairman of the Poongsan Corporation in
South Korea, Jin Roy Ryu), and the current owners of the Los Angeles
Dodgers (Frank and Jamie McCourt). The New York Mets funded the
Brooklyn team’s trip.
The donated funds provided round-trip transportation for the team,
manager, coaches, family members and a handful of other guests, plus
lodging and meals for the three-day trip in the Wrigley Little
League team’s case.
“We’re grateful to everyone involved for taking part in this
initiative,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive
officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “They know the
importance of Jackie Robinson’s legacy to the future of baseball.”
The game was the 17th on the South Lawn of the White House since May
6, 2001, when President Bush began the initiative as a way to boost
interest in youth sports among children and parents.
President Bush, the first former Little Leaguer to be elected to the
nation’s highest office, played Little League Baseball at Central
Little League in Midland, Texas, in the mid-1950s. He was on the
Cubs, and was a catcher. In 2001, President Bush was enshrined in
the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence when he visited the
Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The game was the second of the 2007 Tee Ball on the South Lawn
season, the first to feature a team from New York City, and the
first to include a team from the West Coast. A team from Uniondale
Little League in Long Island, N.Y., is the only other team from the
state of New York to have played on the South Lawn, on May 5, 2002.
Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest youth
sports organization, with nearly 2.7 million children participating
in every U.S. state and dozens of other countries on six continents.
Little League is the only youth sports organization to be chartered
by the U.S. Congress.
R&B recording artist Mario sings the National Anthem.
President Bush, with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson at right,
addresses the teams and crowd before the game. At each Tee Ball on
the South Lawn game, the President leads the teams in reciting the
Little League Pledge – the same pledge he recited as a Little
Leaguer in Midland, Texas, in the 1950s.
|President Bush and Mr. Robinson hang the
number “42” on the backstop, officially retiring Jackie
Robinson’s uniform number at White House Tee Ball games. All of
the players on both teams wore No. 42 in tribute to Jackie
|Len Coleman, former president of the National
League and current trustee of the Little League Foundation,
greets President Bush in the pre-game ceremony. Mr. Coleman
presented the President with a Jackie Robinson jersey, on behalf
of the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Robinson family.
|ESPN Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravech was
the public address announcer for the Tee Ball game. Mr. Ravech
also was the master of ceremonies at a luncheon honoring former
President George H.W. Bush in Houston at Little League’s
International Congress earlier this year.
|It’s going to be a close play at first, as
honorary first base coach Don Newcombe (right), the former
Dodger pitching great, looks on.
|Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, the
honorary third base coach, gives base running tips to a player
|A Los Angeles runner eludes the tag at home.
|A Brooklyn player drives the ball off the
|Post-game high fives ended the spirited
|At the end of the game, each player met
President Bush, and received a baseball bearing the Presidential
Seal, as well as the President’s autograph.
|At the post-game picnic, both teams gathered
for a photo at the backstop.