Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Youth baseball birthplace

Yesterday afternoon, I visited the birthplace of Little League Baseball. It's located in Williamsport, Pa. the central PA burg well known as the home of Little League.

If you've been following the Little League World Series on television this week, you might have the impression that Little League was born at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, the major-league kids ballpark cut into a mountainside. Not so. The real birthplace is about two miles away, and is, in many ways, the more interesting destination.

From 1939, when Little League began with three teams - Lundy Lumber, Lycoming Dairy and Jumbo Pretzel - until 1941, games were played at a park just off West Fourth St - a monument marks the spot now. After that, the organization moved across the street to a site that is a step back in time. There, I found quaint Carl E. Stotz field, named for the founder of Little League, a wonderful museum, and several helpful tour guides - even a souvenir stand. I also ran into this year's LLWS team from the Northwest, kids, parents and coaches from Beaverton, Oregon, who were taking a tour and paying their respects to the place. (By the way, the "Original League" a program not affiliated with LL, and started by Stotz, now plays its games at Stotz Field).

The early history of Little League is intriguing and has long been of interest to me. In 1999, I wrote an article for BusinessWeek on the business of Little League, and touched on this.

I got a lot out of my visit yesterday. I recommend the place. Original League officials are hosting a daily Open House through the weekend.

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