This narrative has played out before, but not for the reasons you might be expecting. This morning, Little League Baseball announced that it has stripped the Jackie Robinson Little League from Chicago, Illinois of its United States title won during 2014. The team violated rules in place to prevent coaches from using players outside of a given geographic area.
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With ESPN breaking the story this morning, the Jackie Robinson Little League team will be vacated of its title with it now being awarded to the Las Vegas based Little League team.
During the tournament, much was made of the team from Chicago as they were the first all-African-American team to win the championship. With Little League baseball struggling to attract African-American kids to the sport, it was seen as a monumental victory for both the team as well as the league.
After stripping the team of the title, Little League also suspended the team manager, Darold Butler, from all Little League sanctioned activity. The Jackie Robinson team provided a boundary map that included false parameters that allowed the team to construct an All Star roster.
Little League International CEO Stephen Keener said, “For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses. This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome.”
In 1992, Little League stripped a title from the Zamboanga, Philippines team for using players outside of boundaries and having overage members. The only other instance in which games were forfeited was in 2001, when the team from the Bronx allowed a 14-year-old Danny Almonte to compete for them.
Although reprehensible, this seems to be somewhat of a sad situation for Little League as a whole. With boundary parameters constantly changing, and being somewhat silly in their own respect, the issue doesn’t seem as big as it has been made out to be. All players were of age, and within the same general area. As Little League teams are virtually All Star teams anyways, it would seem this would do more harm to the sport than anything.
At any rate, Little League has yet another scandal that will highlight the storylines of the sport until Williamsport takes center stage again at the end of the summer.
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