Circa 1955. Getty
Circa 1955. Getty

15 Major Facts About Little League Baseball

Circa 1955. Getty
Circa 1955. Getty

In late August, New York's Maine-Endwell Little League won the 70th annual Little League World Series. Though this year's championship didn't produce a superstar like 2014's pitching sensation Mo'ne Davis, September's National Little League month is in full swing. To celebrate, oil up your glove and read up on the history behind the world’s largest youth sports organization.

1. IT ALL BEGAN WITH A GAME OF CATCH.

In 1938, Carl Stotz, a lumberyard clerk living in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, was playing catch with his nephews one day when he tripped over a lilac bush. His frustration quickly turned to inspiration when he decided to start a local league where kids could play organized baseball on a real baseball field. That summer, he set down the rules for Little League Baseball—including field dimensions that are still used today—and gathered enough kids and equipment for three teams to begin playing.

2. THE FIRST TEAMS WERE NAMED AFTER A LOCAL DAIRY, A LUMBER COMPANY, AND A PRETZEL FACTORY.

Circa 1955. Getty

Little League teams today rely on the support of local sponsors to buy equipment, such as bats and helmets. The same was true back in 1938, but without name recognition Stotz had quite a time finding sponsors. After soliciting 56 different local businesses, Stotz finally convinced Lycoming Dairy to agree to back one of his teams. He eventually secured sponsorship from two other businesses, Lundy Lumber and Jumbo Pretzel. In the first-ever Little League game, played on June 6, 1939, Lundy Lumber trounced Lycoming Dairy 23-8.

3. THE FIRST TOURNAMENT CHAMPION WAS THE MAYNARD MIDGETS.

In 1947, Little League Baseball held its first ever championship tournament. With just 12 teams competing, it was a far cry from the sprawling international competition players compete in today. But it still drew 2500 spectators and received national media attention. In the championship game, the Maynard Midgets defeated the Lock Haven All Stars 16-7.

4. GROWTH EXPLODED AFTER A SATURDAY EVENING POST STORY.

In the spring of 1948, Stotz organized an exhibition game in a town near Williamsport. It was one of many such games that Stotz put on for communities interested in adding Little League programs, but there was something fortuitous about this particular game. In the stands was a man named E.H. Brandt, a senior editor with The Saturday Evening Post who was vacationing nearby. Enchanted by the spectacle, Brandt assigned a writer and photographer to write about Little League, which at that point was expanding slowly along the east coast. After the Post’s more than 4 million subscribers read the story the following year, Stotz was inundated with requests from communities eager to start their own Little Leagues. Between 1949 and 1953, the number of leagues doubled every year.

5. THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL TEAMS WERE ON EITHER SIDE OF THE PANAMA CANAL.

Despite wearing his batting glove on the wrong hand, contributing writer Jeff Wells terrorized the diamond at Eastern Little League in Lexington, Kentucky (or at least that’s how he remembers it). For his final season, his parents went all in on the deluxe photo package, which included this sweet woodcut they dredged up from basement storage.

A little more than 10 years after Carl Stotz tripped over his lilac bush, Little League Baseball expanded outside of the United States. The first international teams, started at the same time in 1950, were situated on either side of the Panama Canal. One team, coached by former Major Leaguer Joe Cicero, was called "Pacific," the other "Atlantic." Most of the players were American transplants—children of canal workers and military officers who had taken their love for America’s pastime abroad.

6. TODAY, NEARLY 90 COUNTRIES PARTICIPATE IN LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL.

From Russia to Australia, Burkina Faso to Papua New Guinea, kids from six different continents currently play Little League Baseball. Teams from Asia have been a dominant presence in the annual World Series tournament, while Caribbean teams from the Dominican Republic and Curaçao have been in the ascendancy lately. No team from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East has ever made it to the World Series final.

7. GIRLS WERE BARRED FROM PLAYING UNTIL 1974.

Even after Title IX went into effect in 1972, Little League Baseball staunchly opposed letting girls play. The organization reasoned that girls were more prone to injury, and that baseball was the "prerogative" of young American boys. Across the country, Little League began battling court cases brought by the families of girls who wanted to play. The league typically won out, claiming their organization was a private one and such decisions were theirs to make, but in 1974 judges in New Jersey and Massachusetts ruled that Little League had no right to bar girls from participating. One defendant, 11-year-old Maria Pepe from Hoboken, New Jersey, had played three games in 1972 before Little League threatened to revoke Hoboken’s charter. After the two cases went through, Little League decided it was too expensive to fight the mounting legal battles, and allowed girls to play (but sadly, Maria Pepe was too old to get back on the field).

8. BUT ONE GIRL HAD SECRETLY PLAYED LITTLE LEAGUE YEARS EARLIER.

For one summer in her tweens, assistant editor Caitlin Schneider decided to play baseball with the boys while her girlfriends were playing softball. She cut her hair short and made sure to have a well-worn glove by the time practices started (by literally rolling it in dirt), but then faked an injury the evening of the first game because she was too scared to play. Her dad made her go anyway, and she caught a line drive that ended up being the play of the game. She told everyone that she did it with her eyes closed. All the boys cheered.

In 1950, Kathryn Johnston of Corning, New York, tried out and won a spot on her local Little League team. Small and skinny, and with her hair tucked under her baseball cap (after she had her mother cut off her two long braids), Johnston went by the alias "Tubby," after a character in a popular comic strip. After she revealed to her coach and teammates that she was a girl, Johnston said years later, they all agreed to let her keep playing. In 1951, Little League codified its "no girls" policy.

9. THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL TEAM TO WIN THE LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES WERE A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY.

In 1957, a Little League team from Monterrey, Mexico crossed a footbridge over the Rio Grande to play their first game on U.S. soil. The game, part of the early rounds in the annual Little League World Series, was in McAllen, Texas. The team from Monterrey, which had only recently started playing baseball and played on a makeshift field they had to regularly sweep clean of broken glass and debris, didn’t expect to win. But win they did, and they kept winning—against teams from Texas, Kentucky, and Mississippi. Many of the kids had never left Monterrey and were homesick. Their visas expired. They ate only two meals a day to save money.

Eventually, they made it to the World Series final, where they beat a much bigger and stronger team from La Mesa, California on the back of a perfect game from 12-year-old pitcher Angel Macias—the only perfect game ever thrown in a LLWS championship. Afterwards, the Monterrey players were hailed as heroes. They took in a Brooklyn Dodgers game, met President Eisenhower, and went on a shopping spree at Macy’s, which gave each of the players a $40 credit. When they returned to Mexico, hundreds of thousands of people were there to greet them.

10. LITTLE LEAGUE ONCE BANNED INTERNATIONAL TEAMS FROM THE WORLD SERIES.

Little League may have originated in America, but by the mid 1970s, international teams were dominating the world tournament. This included Japan, which won the Little League World Series in 1967 and 1968, and an utterly dominant Taiwan, which won the tournament four years in a row from 1971 to 1974. In the '73 World Series, Taiwan won three games by a combined score of 57-0, and won the championship game in a 12-0 rout. After Taiwan won again in 1974, Little League took the step of banning international teams from advancing past the regional round of the World Series. Their reasoning: International teams were too focused on winning the tourney. After a major backlash, Little League went back on its decision and re-admitted international teams.

11. WE CAN THANK LITTLE LEAGUE FOR THE BATTING HELMET AND OTHER INNOVATIONS.

Staff writer Michele Debczak strikes a pose in her softball uniform at age 9. After warming the bench for her Revere, Pennsylvania league for one season, she decided that watching the professionals play ball on TV was much more enjoyable.

In 1959, Dr. Creighton J. Hale, Little League’s director of research, developed the first batting helmet with protective ear coverings. It was a design that Little League quickly implemented, and that Major League Baseball eventually adopted for its players. (Considering he also helped develop the Kevlar helmet for the military, Dr. Hale has probably prevented more head injuries than any single person in history). Little League was also the testing grounds for the aluminum bat, the remote-controlled scoreboard, and the first ever "ump cam," worn by umpire Frank Rizzo during the 1985 Little League World Series final.

12. THE FIRST LITTLE LEAGUER TO MAKE IT TO THE MAJORS WAS JOEY JAY.

Over the years, Little Leaguers who have found their way into the rarified air of Major League Baseball include Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Nolan Ryan, and Tom Seaver. The first alumnus to do so was Joey Jay, from Middletown, Connecticut, who was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1953, at age 17 (Allen Yearick, who played in the very first game in 1939, signed with the Boston Braves organization in 1947, but played in the minor leagues). Because of a "bonus rule" at the time that mandated teams keep players above a certain paygrade on their rosters rather than send them down to the minor leagues, Jay only played sparingly in his first few seasons. He eventually was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he pitched consecutive 20-win seasons in 1961 and '62. He also pitched in game two of the 1961 World Series, holding the New York Yankees to just two runs en route to a victory (though the Yankees would ultimately win the series).

13. ED VOSBERG, JASON VARITEK, AND MICHAEL CONFORTO BELONG TO AN ULTRA-EXCLUSIVE LITTLE LEAGUE CLUB.

Ed Vosberg, Jason Varitek, and Michael Conforto are the only three players in baseball history to have played in the Little League World Series final, the College World Series final, and the MLB World Series. Vosberg, who played for Tucson, Arizona’s Cactus Little League during their trip to the 1973 LLWS final game, pitched for the University of Arizona during their championship run in 1980, and the Florida Marlins when they won the World Series in 1997. Varitek, meanwhile, played catcher for Florida's Altamonte Springs (1984 LLWS final), Georgia Tech (1994), and the Boston Red Sox (2004 and 2007). And in 2015, Conforto became the third person to join this illustrious group, having played for the Redmond North Little League in 2004, Oregon State University in 2013, and the New York Mets in 2015, where he became the first player to RBI in all three.

14. THERE HAS BEEN NO SHORTAGE OF RECRUITING CONTROVERSIES.

Senior staff writer Shaunacy Ferro (back row, right) and her Santa Paula, California T-ball team in 1994, when none of the players were old enough to care that the professional photographer forgot to show up for their team photo.

Little League has strict age and residency policies for players. Leagues can only draw players from their local districts, as defined in their founding charters, and can only use players younger than 13 (or who turn 13 after May 1 of a given year). Despite the prominent attention given to these rules, for decades teams have flouted them in order to gain an edge in the world tournament. Zamboanga City, Philippines, had its 1992 title vacated after it was discovered to have used overage and out-of-district players (including some who assumed the identity of eligible players).

In 2001, Danny Almonte, a masterful southpaw pitcher from the Bronx who threw a perfect game and led his team to the championship, was discovered to be 14 years old. Just last year, Jackie Robinson Little League from Chicago had to forfeit its tournament win from 2014 after recruiting violations were found. Taiwan, meanwhile, bent the rules for years in recruiting players. In 1997, after being tipped off by the country’s archrival, Japan, Little League took a closer look at the country and tightened its recruitment policies. The next year, Taiwan bowed out of the tournament, saying it could not comply with the new policies.

15. THE ANNUAL TOURNAMENT FEATURES MORE THAN 16,000 GAMES IN 45 DAYS.

Every summer, teams from all over the world slug it out for a chance to compete in the World Series finals in Williamsport. Those that make it have to survive a grueling travel schedule—and, of course, win, again and again and again. The 45-day tournament features more games than six Major League Baseball seasons combined. Combined with the other World Series tournaments that Little League puts on for its softball and other age divisions, the organization oversees the world’s largest elimination tournament.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About The Sandlot
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What, you haven’t seen The Sandlot? You’re killing me, Smalls.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Roger Ebert got it right: The Sandlot is like the summer version of A Christmas Story. They’re not penned by the same screenwriter and they don’t share a director or even actors, but both make you feel nostalgic for a childhood you probably didn’t even have.

No matter how many times you’ve watched Squints execute his plan to get to first base with Wendy Peffercorn, there’s bound to be something you don’t know about this modern classic. On the 25th anniversary of the movie's release, here are 15 of our favorite The Sandlot secrets.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE BOYS OF SUMMER.

Originally called The Boys of Summer, the film's name had to be changed because there was already a famous baseball book by the same title.

2. IT WAS PARTLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.

The movie was inspired in part by a childhood experience co-writer/director David Mickey Evans’s brother had. Some older boys wouldn’t let Evans play baseball with him. When they lost a ball over a brick wall, he thought he could get on their good side by retrieving it for them. When he hopped the wall, however, he found a giant dog named Hercules waiting for him—and he was bitten.

3. IT WAS A QUICK SHOOT.

It was shot in just 42 days.

4. THE KIDS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MUCH YOUNGER.

Casting directors originally wanted the kids to be 9 to 10 years old, but as they began casting, "it became obvious real fast the kids were much too young," Evans told Sports Illustrated. "So I said, 'We've got to make them 12 or 13.' We knew it was the right decision instantly, because the first kid that we interviewed was Mike Vitar [who played Benny Rodriguez]."

5. THE GIANT OAK TREE THAT HOLDS THE TREEHOUSE WAS SALVAGED.

The cast of 'The Sandlot' (1993)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The production crew had been agonizing over how they were going to pull off a tree that size—"We were looking at having to buy an oak tree, and a specimen that big, if you can even find one, is hundreds of thousands of dollars," Evans told Sports Illustrated—when they happened to notice one being chopped down not far from the production offices. The 100-year-old oak was interfering with the foundation of the house it was planted next to. The man removing it agreed to give it to the crew, and Salt Lake City’s utility companies took down power and telephone lines on certain streets so the tree could be hauled safely to the empty lot where filming was taking place. It was cemented into the ground there and became an iconic part of the movie.

6. YEAH-YEAH ORIGINALLY READ FOR BERTRAM.

Marty York, the actor who played Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan, originally read for Bertram. Not only did York not get the Bertram role, he wasn’t the first choice for Yeah-Yeah, either. The kid cast for Yeah-Yeah got sick just as the movie was scheduled to start filming, and York replaced him.

7. THE CHEWING TOBACCO WAS MADE OF LICORICE AND BACON BITS.

The chewing tobacco from the carnival scene was really made out of licorice and bacon bits—and that, the actors later said, combined with riding the carnival rides for so many takes, made them as sick as their fictional counterparts got. (The vomit from that scene, by the way, was a mixture of split pea soup, baked beans, oatmeal, water, and gelatin.)

8. IT WAS DANGEROUSLY HOT.

It was so hot during the daytime shoots—upwards of 110 degrees—that the actor who played Scotty Smalls, Tom Guiry, got weak from running around in the heat and fell into one of the cameramen.

9. IT WAS ALSO REALLY COLD.

On the other hand, the famous pool scene was actually freezing. The day was overcast and the water was just 56 degrees. Evans says you can actually see Squints’s teeth chattering while he’s staring longingly at Wendy Peffercorn from the pool.

10. SQUINTS WAS GIVEN A STERN REMINDER.

Speaking of the Squints scam: Evans had to give actor Chauncey Leopardi a stern reminder before the scene was shot: “You keep your tongue in your mouth, you understand?”

11. WENDY PEFFERCORN WAS BASED ON A GIRL NAMED BUNNY.

Wendy was partly based on a girl Evans remembers from his childhood—a lifeguard in a red bathing suit named Bunny.

12. THE KIDS WERE EXCITED TO MEET DARTH VADER.

The kids were super impressed that Darth Vader was on set—James Earl Jones, of course, played junkyard owner Mr. Mertle. (They were almost as taken with Marley Shelton, who played Wendy.)

13. THE CAST SNUCK INTO A SCREENING OF BASIC INSTINCT.

When the young cast wasn’t acting, they were getting into the kind of shenanigans that their Sandlot alter egos surely would have been proud of—they snuck in to see Basic Instinct.

14. THE BEAST WAS PARTLY PUPPET.

The Beast—a.k.a. Hercules, an English Mastiff—was played, in part, by a puppet. It took two people to operate. If you don’t mind ruining the movie magic, you can see the behind-the-scenes photos on Evans’s blog.

Some scenes with the Beast called for a real dog (two, actually). When Smalls and Hercules make friends at the end, they got the dog to lick his face by smearing baby food on one half of Tom Guiry’s face. "That scene where I’m looking to the side, the other half of me is just slathered in this baby goo. That dog had a field day on my face," Guiry told Time. "I’m a dog-lover though, so it didn’t really bother me.”

15. THE MOVIE WAS AT THE CENTER OF A MAJOR LAWSUIT.

The Sandlot was at the center of a lawsuit that eventually had a major impact on Hollywood. A man named Michael Polydoros sued 20th Century Fox, claiming that his former classmate, David Mickey Evans, had based the character of Michael “Squints” Palledorous on him, and that it caused him embarrassment and humiliation. A judge decided that there wasn’t enough similarity to justify the lawsuit, meaning that movie studios could continue using characters inspired in part by real-life people.

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10 of the Most Valuable Baseball Cards in the World
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

If baseball is America’s national pastime, then collecting baseball cards is a close second. Closets, crawl spaces, and attics across the country are full of cards from every era—from the days of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams to Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. But not all of them are going to pay off your student loans or put you in a new house.

Baseball card values depend on many factors, like age, condition, scarcity, and the collectible market trends at the time. With all that in mind, we're taking a look at 10 of the most valuable baseball cards in the world.

1. HONUS WAGNER, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $3.12 MILLION

If you know anything about baseball cards, it won't come as a shock that this Honus Wagner card sold for a staggering $3.12 million in 2016, besting its previous high of $2.8 million from 2007. Widely considered to be the "Holy Grail" of baseball collectibles, the card's value is forever tied to its backstory. It was originally produced by the American Tobacco Company and was included in packs of the company's cigarettes. But, for reasons that still aren't completely clear, Wagner made the company pull the card from the market, resulting in anywhere from only 25 to 200 ever being released—and more than 100 years later, the scarcity has made it a landmark in sports collectibles.

2. MICKEY MANTLE, 1952 TOPPS // $1.13 MILLION

Joining Wagner in the more-than-a-million-dollars card club is none other than Mickey Mantle. More specifically, it's his 1952 Topps Major League card that went for $1.13 million at auction in 2016. Its Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grade, which scores a card's condition, is an astounding 8.5 out of 10, making it one of the most attractive Mantle cards out there. But even copies with lower scores have gone for significant amounts, with grades of 6 and 7 regularly going for more than $100,000. But in a few weeks this list might need updating—another 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is up for auction in April, this time with a PSA grade of 9. Its pre-auction estimate is a mighty $3.5 million-plus.

3. BABE RUTH, 1916 SPORTING NEWS // $717,000

Babe Ruth’s Sporting News card from 1916 (his pre-Yankee days) sold for $717,000 in a 2016 auction. It was far from the only auction that featured this card of a young Bambino, though. In 2017, the same card with the same PSA grade fetched around $550,000. It's just another example of how selling at the right time and finding the right buyer can make a six-figure difference.

4. PETE ROSE/PEDRO GONZALEZ/KEN MCMULLEN/AL WEIS, 1963 TOPPS // $717,000

So how did a card like this wind up taking $717,000 at auction? It's not nearly as old as a Ruth card, yet it went for just as much money. Well, for one, it features Pete Rose on it, and anything with "The Hit King" is going to get some interest. Another reason is that it was graded a perfect 10 by the PSA, which is exceedingly rare for any card of its age. It's the only copy of this particular card ever to get that rating, and for collectors, that's a big deal. This one won't fetch nearly as much in any other condition, though, as a 9 grade might get around $70,000 at auction.

5. "SHOELESS" JOE JACKSON, 1909 AMERICAN CARAMEL // $667,149

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the most high-profile baseball name to be linked to the notorious Black Sox Scandal, but that hasn't hurt his worth on the collectible market. In 2016, a PSA grade 8 copy of what's considered to be Jackson's rookie card sold at auction for $667,149. In 2008, the same card with a lower grade went for $86,975, so it just goes to show that a card's condition can make all the difference.

6. NOLAN RYAN/JERRY KOOSMAN, 1968 TOPPS // $612,359

Like the Rose rookie card, this Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman combo piece was rated a perfect 10 and was rewarded with $612,359 at auction, far higher than it would have been otherwise. In fact, of the 8000 Ryan/Koosman rookie cards that have been submitted, it's the only one to receive a perfect score. And that pristine condition is exactly why it commanded that price—when you put a 9 grade on the same card, for example, its value goes down to around $20,000 to $30,000.

7. BABE RUTH, 1914 BALTIMORE NEWS // $575,000

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Babe wound up on this list twice. This time, the Sultan of Swat is seen as a minor league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, well before his home run prowess was realized. In 2012, Robert Edwards Auctions sold a PSA 2 graded copy of the card for an impressive $575,000. And if you want a rare card, this is it: It's generally agreed upon that there are only around 10 in existence.

8. WILLIE MAYS, 1952 TOPPS // $478,000

In 2016, Heritage Auctions held a Sports Collectibles Auction that over three days sold $11 million of memorabilia. The single most valuable item sold was a $478,000 Willie Mays card. While not his rookie card, it was the first Topps card to feature the legendary centerfielder.

9. ROBERTO CLEMENTE, 1955 TOPPS // $478,000

All-time great Roberto Clemente, a member of the 3000-hit club and the Baseball Hall of Fame, died tragically in a plane crash en route to Nicaragua to contribute to earthquake relief in 1972. In 2012, his 1955 rookie card—graded a rare 10 by PSA—sold for $432,690. But four years later (showing that timing can be more important than grade), a 1955 Roberto Clemente card that was graded a 9 sold for $478,000 (however, the same card with a PSA grade of 8 is worth around $30,000). An interesting note about the 2012 sale is that the card was owned by former big leaguer Dmitri Young, who auctioned a large portion of his impressive collection in 2012 for $2.4 million.

10. JOE DOYLE, N.Y. NAT'L, 1909-1911 ATC T206 // $414,750

“Slow Joe” Doyle might not be the most famous player on this list, but he has one of the most notorious cards on the market. First off, this particular card is over 100 years old, so there are reported to be less than a dozen in circulation. But most importantly, there was a printing error on the card, listing Doyle as playing for New York's National League team, rather than the correct American League team (he was a member of the New York Highlanders, which would eventually become the Yankees; it’s thought the confusion was due to Larry Doyle being on New York’s National League team). The error was quickly fixed, so a majority of them hit the market with the correct wording. The card has come to auction only a few times in recent years, bringing in anywhere from $64,099 to a staggering $414,750. Not bad for a pitcher with a career record of 22-21.

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