Why Williamsport? Pennsylvania Roots Run Deep in Little League World Series History

Japan's Yuma Wantanabe, right, slides into second base as Lewisberry, Pa.'s Braden Kolmansberger cannot handle the throw from home to advance on a passed ball during the sixth inning of the Little League World Series Championship baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in South Williamsport, Pa. Japan won 18-11. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

By Patrick Berkery

August 14, 2023

The eyes of the baseball world are again on Williamsport, as the 76th Little League Baseball World Series begins on Wednesday. With a team from Delaware County playing in this year’s tournament, it’s a good time to look at Pennsylvania’s rich history in the late summer classic.

Pennsylvania’s most global-facing sporting event, the Little League World Series, kicks off Wednesday in Williamsport with the Europe-Africa Region champion, Czech Republic, facing the Panama Region champion, Veraguas, at 1 p.m.

For the third straight year, a Pennsylvania team will be participating in the tournament, after the squad from Media, Delaware County punched its ticket Friday with a thrilling walk-off victory at the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship against Northwest Washington, D.C.

You can watch Media’s first game in the 2023 Little League World Series on ESPN at 7 p.m. Wednesday against the Southwest Region champions, from Needville, Texas. The 20-team, 38-game tournament runs through Aug. 27 and includes 10 US regional champions and 10 international region champions.

Media won’t be the only Pennsylvania team playing in Williamsport during the Little League World Series. The Phillies will play the Washington Nationals this Sunday at 7 p.m. in the 2023 MLB Little League Classic. The game airs on ESPN for “Sunday Night Baseball.”

In honor of the 76th Little League World Series, let’s take a look at some of the unique Pennsylvania connections to the late summer classic.

Why Williamsport?

If you’ve ever wondered why Little League Baseball teams from all over the world descend upon Williamsport every August, it’s because of an oil company clerk named Carl E. Stotz.

Stotz founded Little League Baseball in Williamsport in 1939. Legend has it he came up with the idea after stumbling over a lilac bush during a backyard game of catch with his two young nephews. When the first Little League Baseball World Series was played in 1947 at Williamsport’s Original Field at Memorial Park, all but one of the teams were from Pennsylvania—primarily because Little League baseball only existed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey at the time.

Within a few years, word spread about Little League, with teams playing in all (then) 48 states. The first Little Leagues outside the US were established in 1950 in Panama, Canada, and Hawaii.

By the mid-1950s, Stotz became disillusioned with what his original idea for Little League Baseball had become and filed suit against those he had installed to run the league in hopes of regaining some control. Stotz eventually left Little League altogether after an out-of-court settlement was reached. The Little League World Series continued, being played every year with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keystone State Champions

Four Pennsylvania teams have been crowned Little League World Series champions since the tournament began in 1947.

A Williamsport-area team, the Maynard Midgets, won the first series, defeating the Lock Haven All Stars 16-7. Jack Losch of the Maynard championship team was a first-round selection by the Green Bay Packers in the 1956 NFL draft, becoming the first Little League World Series participant to play a professional sport. Following his death in 2004, the Team Sportsmanship Award was named in his honor.

The Lock Haven All Stars defeated the St. Petersburg (Florida) All Stars in 1948’s championship game, 6-5. Lock Haven pitcher Litle Gary Kelly struck out 12 batters in the game.

In 1955, Morrisville defeated the Delaware Township, N.J. team 4-3, in the first championship game that was decided by a walk-off home run, hit by Rich Cominski. Dick Hart of Morrisville would go on to play in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills, after playing minor league baseball in the Milwaukee Braves organization.

Pennsylvania’s last championship team to date came from Levittown. They defeated the North East Optimist Club of Fort Worth, Texas, 5-0, to win the 1960 series. Levittown pitcher Joe Mormello Jr. tossed a no-hitter in the championship game, striking out 16 batters.

Pennsylvania Teams in the Little League World Series

With Media qualifying for this year’s tournament, Pennsylvania has now had 36 teams representing the commonwealth in the Little League World Series.

Lock Haven leads the state with three appearances (1947-49), followed by West Shore-Harrisburg (1947-48) and Levittown (1960-61) with two appearances each.

Four Pennsylvania teams have been runner-up: Lock Haven (1947), Optimist, Monongahela (1952), Shippensburg (1990), and Red Land/Lewisberry (2015).

Have Any Little League World Series Alumni From Pa. Played Major League Baseball?

No Pennsylvania Little League World Series participants have made it to the big leagues. However, Scott Bandura, who was the catcher on the 2014 Taney Dragons team from Philadelphia, was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the seventh round of the MLB draft in June. So let’s check back in a few years.

Have Any Girls From Pa. Played in the Little League World Series?

In 1974, the Little League Federal Charter was amended, allowing girls to play Little League Baseball and the creation of the Little League Softball program.

Since then, just 21 girls have played in the Little League World Series, with only one of them hailing from Pennsylvania: Scott Bandura’s Taney Dragons teammate, Mo’ne Davis of Philadelphia.

Davis made headlines around the world with her performance on the mound in 2014, compiling 14 strikeouts while allowing only three earned runs in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Her performance drew millions of viewers to watch the Dragons’ games on ESPN, and landed Davis on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Davis recently graduated from Hampton University with a communications degree and has been interning for the Los Angeles Dodgers this summer in the team’s video production department.

Have Any Phillies or Pirates Played in the Little League World Series?

No current Phillies or Pirates played in the Little League World Series, though both Pennsylvania teams have featured alumni over the years.

The most notable participant was former Pirates player and manager Lloyd McClendon for the Gary, Ind. team in 1971. McClendon swung a bat five times in three games and hit five home runs, drawing intentional walks in his five other plate appearances, inspiring the nickname “Legendary Lloyd.” McClendon’s team, who lost to Taiwan in the championship game, was the first Little League World Series team to feature all Black players.

Other former Pirates to play in the Little League World Series: Carl Taylor, Derek Bell, Jason Bay, Jeff Clement, Lastings Milledge, Todd Frazier, Wei-Chung Wang, and Max Moroff.

Former Phillies: Rick Wise, Ed Vosberg, Adam Loewen, Michael Saunders, and Scott Kingery (currently at Triple A Lehigh Valley).

Charlie Hayes, who played for both the Phillies and Pirates, also played in the Little League World Series.

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