In 1938, a man named Carl Stotz hit upon the idea for an organized baseball league for the boys in his hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Carl had no sons of his own, but he often played ball with his young nephews, Jimmy and Major Gehron, and wanted a way to provide an organized program for them.
Carl gathered several of the neighborhood children and experimented with different types of equipment and different field dimensions during that summer. The program still did not have a name, and no games were played.
In 1939, Carl and his wife Grayce took the experiment a step further, enlisting the help of brothers George and Bert Bebble and their wives, Annabelle and Eloise, respectively. Carl, George and Bert were the managers of the first three teams: Lycoming Dairy, Lundy Lumber and Jumbo Pretzel. John and Peggy Lindemuth soon joined the group, with the eight volunteers making up the very first Little League board of directors.
Carl also talked to his friends in the community and came up with the name: Little League. His idea was to provide a wholesome program of baseball for the boys of Williamsport, as a way to teach them the ideals of sportsmanship, fair play and teamwork.
The sponsorships (the fee was $30) helped to pay for equipment and uniforms for 30 players. Since then, sponsorship of Little League both at the local league level and at the Headquarters level have helped to keep costs to parents to a minimum.
On June 6, 1939, in the very first Little League game ever played, Lundy Lumber defeated Lycoming Dairy, 23-8. Lycoming Dairy came back to win the season’s first-half title, and faced second-half champ Lundy Lumber in a best-of-three series. Lycoming Dairy won the final game of the series, 3-2.
In the following years, other programs emulating the first Little League sprung up. Boundaries for each league were established to ensure each league could thrive without worrying about neighboring programs “raiding” its players.
From those humble beginnings, Little League International has become the world’s largest organized youth sports program, creating new opportunities for girls to play baseball and softball, expanding play for teenage players, and initiating new programs to bring baseball and softball to children with physical and intellectual challenges (Little League Challenger Division), as well as supporting efforts to remove barriers of entry for all children and families to welcome them into the Little League program.
And the basic goal remains the same as it did in 1939, to give the children of the world a game that provides fundamental principles (sportsmanship, fair play and teamwork) they can use later in life to become good citizens.