Since the 1970s, Ferguson, Mo. has gone from being 85 percent white to about 70 percent black and is a suburb which is considered inner-city today. Following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, we witnessed an uprising of racial tension leading to violence between the whites and blacks. During the time of the racial separation in Ferguson, enter the togetherness of the Little League World Series (LLWS).
The last three teams left on the American side of the LLWS were a team from Las Vegas, a team from Philadelphia, and a team from Chicago. Having two urban teams reaching this level is rare in the LLWS. Little League officials are hoping this is a sign the sport is extending its reach to inner-city and African American communities which have been underrepresented since the 1970s. The team from Philadelphia was the Taney Dragons and the team from Chicago was Jackie Robinson West.
After reaching a peak of close to 25% in the early 1980s, the number of African-American players in Major League Baseball (MLB) has shrunk gradually to 8% in 2014. This compares to 26% Latino, 5% Asian, and 63% white. To counter this gradual decline Major League Baseball initiated a program called RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities) to teach the value of teamwork, to promote greater inclusion of minorities into the main stream of the game and to encourage academic achievement. RBI programs have been started in more than 200 cities worldwide, and annually provide more than 260,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball and softball. The success of these two inner-city teams provides Major League Baseball (MLB) with the hope that the decline of African-American players in MLB will soon be reversed.
The Taney team grew out of a team called the Anderson Monarchs which was founded by Scott Bandura, a white man who wanted to give inner-city children the same opportunity to play ball as their counterparts from the suburbs. The Taney team is made up almost entirely of African-American players. The best player on Taney was a 5’4” girl named Mo’ne Davis. Davis was just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series.
The Jackie Robinson team began in 1971. The team was formed to use the game of baseball to teach children self-discipline, teamwork, and leadership. The Jackie Robinson team consisted entirely of African-American players.
The two teams met and the Jackie Robinson team defeated the Taney team by a score of 6-5. Davis started the game but was limited to only 2.1 innings to make her eligible for the championship game if Taney had won. In her first outing, Davis pitched a two-hit shutout to become the first girl to win a game in the Little League World Series. In her two starts, Davis pitched 8 1/3 innings, allowed eight hits and three earned runs, and struck out 14 with only one walk. She also threw a three-hit shutout to lead Taney to an 8-0 victory over Delaware in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game.
The Jackie Robinson team went on to beat the Las Vegas team to become the US Champions. The International Champion was South Korea. In the final game South Korea defeated the valiant US Jacki Robinson team 8 to 4 to win the LLWS.
The LLWS provided viewers a competitive and excellent brand of baseball. It was great to see people cheer and encourage the suburb teams, the inner-city teams, and the international teams. I wish to thank all of the young people for their sportsmanship andfor providing a good role model for all future young players. I am sure Major League Baseball wants to thank the little leaguers for showing inner-city children that baseball can be just as exciting as basketball and football. Finally, thank you Mo’ne Davis for showing that girls can play and enjoy baseball. Maybe, we will see Mo’ne in the majors someday.
Can’t wait for the next year’s LLWS!!!