This February, as we celebrate Black History Month, Little League® International looks back at the 10 African-American members who have been enshrined into the Little League Hall of Excellence, the highest honor that Little League can bestow.
Every member of the Hall of Excellence has helped to shape the history of the Little League program, but more importantly, they have each served as a role model within their communities.
Sydney Leroux (2017)
Sydney Leroux grew up in British Columbia, Canada, and played baseball for the Whalley Little League team from 1995 to 2004. In 2002, Ms. Leroux, who holds dual citizenship with both the United States and Canada, became the first girl to play for a tournament team in the league where she helped lead her team to a Canada Region championship, nearly earning a trip to the Little League Baseball® World Series. Since switching to soccer full time in high school, Ms. Leroux has been highly successful on the pitch. She was the winner of the Golden Boot and Golden Ball award at the 2008 U20 World Cup in Chile and has the most goals scored in U20 history for Team USA. She joined the USWNT in 2011, winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics, and the Women’s World Cup in 2015, the team’s first World Cup title since 1999. Throughout her professional career, Ms. Leroux has since become an advocate for equality and is able to use her platform on the USWNT as a way to inspire young girls like her to follow their dreams. Ms. Leroux became the fifth woman enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence and just the second Little Leaguer from Canada to earn the honor.
Torii Hunter (2016)
A five-time MLB All-Star and winner of nine gold glove, Torii Hunter played baseball in the National Little League in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Through the Torii Hunter Project, Mr. Hunter has supported the Little League Urban Initiative program, helping to supply financial and educational assistance to local leagues to provide all children, from any economic background, the ability to play baseball and softball. Mr. Hunter was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1993 and made his debut with the team in 1997. Throughout his 19-year career, playing for the Twins, Angels, and Tigers, Mr. Hunter hit 353 home runs, drove in 1,391 runs, had a career batting average of .277, won nine Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger awards, and was named a five-time All-Star.
Ozzie Newsome (2008)
Ozzie Newsome, former General Manager and Executive Vice President of the Baltimore Ravens, was considered one of the top executives in the National Football League (NFL) and was the architect of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV Championship team in 2000. During a 13-year Hall of Fame NFL career, highlighted by three Pro Bowl selections (1981, 84-85), he became the league’s premier tight end. With 662 career receptions and nearly 8,000 yards receiving, Mr. Newsome concluded his career as the fourth – leading receiver in league history. In 2002, former Ravens’ owner Art Modell promoted Mr. Newsome, who played in the Muscle Shoals Little League in Alabama, to General Manager, making him the first African American to hold that position in NFL history.
Dusty Baker (2007)
Dusty Baker started his baseball career playing Little League Baseball in Riverside, California and highlighted his 19-year career in Major League Baseball with a World Series Championship as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981. Currently serving as manager for the Houston Astros, Mr. Baker has enjoyed a 20-year managerial career that includes time with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and the Washington Nationals. At the time of his hiring in Washington, he was the only black manager in Major League Baseball and had the second–highest total for most wins in MLB. During his managerial career, he has made multiple playoff appearances, including leading the Giants to the 2002 National League pennant, as well as being named a three-time National League Manager of the Year (1993, 1997, 2000).
Lloyd McClendon (2006)
Lloyd McClendon played for Anderson Little League (Gary, Ind.) in the 1971 Little League Baseball World Series where he earned the nickname “Legendary Lloyd” after a dominating performance. In three LLBWS games, Mr. McClendon recorded five home runs, 10 RBI, and five intentional walks in 10 plate appearances. His team was the first all African American team to participate in the LLBWS. More importantly, Mr. McClendon went on to become a role model for children during his long career as a Major League player, manager, and coach.
Staff Sgt. Wilbert Davis (2003)
Wilbert Davis played Little League in Tampa, Florida, and helped the 1975 Belmont Heights Little League team to reach the Little League Baseball World Series. On April 3, 2003, while en route to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a member of the U.S. Army Third Infantry Division, Staff Sgt. Davis perished when his Humvee came under fire and overturned into a canal. Now, Headstone 7867 in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery marks the final resting place of Sgt. Davis, alongside thousands of this nation’s heroes. Robert Davis, Wilbert’s brother, said the two things his brother valued in life were “Little League baseball and the military.” Sgt. Davis is the first U.S. military person enshrined posthumously into the Hall of Excellence.
George H. “Billy” Hunter (2000)
In 1955, Billy Hunter led his Delaware Township (N.J.) Little League team to the finals of the LLBWS. Along the way, he made lifelong friends, earned a hero’s welcome in his hometown, and met people from all walks of life. “It was phenomenal, a high point in my life,” says the man who later captained the Syracuse University football team and played professional football. While still in the pros, he earned a law degree. After retiring, he practiced law, becoming United States Prosecutor for Northern California in 1976. In 1996, he was selected as the Executive Director of the NBA Players Association. His advice for young players is simple: “Children today have to be children, to take their time and savor the moment. Embrace every opportunity, not just on the field, but off it. Meet people and learn how to be a role model, because your reputation is the most important thing you have.”
Tony Dungy (1998)
Throughout his entire career, Tony Dungy has proven his accomplishments both on and off the playing field. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, he went on to lead a successful career in the National Football League. First as a player, and then as a head coach, he brought the lessons learned on the Little League field at Southeast Little League of Jackson, Michigan, to his team: sportsmanship, teamwork, and a dedication to excellence. A former NFL representative for the United Way and a representative for the National Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mr. Dungy helps other athletes become positive role models worthy of emulation.
Leonard S. Coleman Jr. (1996)
When Leonard Coleman dreamed of professional baseball as a Little Leaguer in Montclair, New Jersey, he probably never considered he would rise to the rank of President of the National League. Mr. Coleman became the 14th President of the league in 1994, prepared with more than two decades of exemplary professional and community service. Throughout his career, Mr. Coleman has achieved tremendous success while retaining the values and character he developed as a child on a Little League field. Mr. Coleman’s community involvement includes work with the Little League Foundation, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the Boys and Girls Club of Newark, New Jersey.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1992)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the all-time leading scorer in National Basketball Association history and member of the NBA Hall of Fame, played Little League Baseball in the Inwood Little League in New York City where he was awarded his team’s sportsmanship award. Mr. Abdul-Jabbar has been on six NBA championship teams and has been named NBA Most Valuable player six times. In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
To submit a person for consideration as a candidate for the Little League Hall of Excellence, provide the name, contact information, name of the local league the person played in (with location and years played), as well as a detailed biography, to Lance Van Auken, Vice President and Executive Director of the World of Little League® Museum at LVanAuken@LittleLeague.org.