History of Little League Baseball focus of festivities

Bill Bair recalled how it all started 75 years ago – a group of kids who wanted to play baseball and a man with a vision who made it happen.

“He was dedicated,” Bair said in recalling Carl Stotz’s efforts to start the first Little League in Williamsport. “He was a very caring person. We were just like family.”

Bair stood outside the Community Arts Center in downtown Williamsport Friday night fondly recalling Stotz and playing on one of the first Little League teams all those summers ago. Later in the evening, he along with six other men who were members of those first teams would walk across the main stage of the theater and be recognized.

All these years later it’s difficult for him to fathom the significance of being one of the trailblazers of Little League.

“Something that started with three teams could blossom to millions of youngsters all over the world,” he said.

Little League’s 75th birthday celebration was a gala affair, with hundreds of people filling the Community Arts Center to help salute the youth sports organization. The evening included the premier of the WVIA film presentation, “Little League: A History.” Narrated by legendary baseball broadcaster Vin Scully, the film traced the story of Little League, from its origins in Williamsport, when Stotz formed the first teams for local youths, to its international spread.

Little League President and CEO Stephen D. Keener said Stotz launched Little League to fulfill a promise he made to his two nephews that he would make it possible for them to someday play organized baseball.

Bair recalled being in Sunday school and being told a man was going to talk to the class about playing baseball.

The man, of course, was Stotz.

“Obviously, we were all interested,” Bair recalled.

Not long after that, he and a group of boys were taking part in baseball practices just behind Bowman Field.

The first Little League game was played June 6, 1939, at that site.

Bair’s Lycoming Diary team was among the first entries in the first Little League.

Bair, who would later serve in World War II and the Korean Conflict before a career as an engineer at Bethlehem Steel, said it was wonderful to be playing baseball with uniforms, new balls and bats, and umpires.

“We were very happy,” he said.

The other original Little Leaguers attending the event were Tuck Frazier, Dick Hauser, Dave Hinaman, Charlie Smith, George Spooner, and Al “Sonny” Yearick.

Hinaman said celebrating Little League’s 75th anniversary is something he never could have anticipated.

“Carl Stotz. We all worshipped him,” he said. “He was the one who put it all together.”

Keener said Little League will be marking the 75th birthday this year with a number of events.

On Thursday, he was in New York to take part in a ceremony to light up the Empire State Building recognizing Little League.

Keener recognized past Little League presidents Stotz, Peter J. McGovern, and Dr. Creighton Hale.

“Each of these men has contributed to Little League,” Keener said.

Keener said he recently visited the gravesites of Stotz and Hale to pay gratitude to the men.

Keener recognized Stotz’s daughter, Karen Stotz-Myers, who was on hand for the celebration.

Little League Baseball International Board Chairwoman Dr. David Jane Glamour noted how Little League has become part of the global community while retaining its core values.

“Little League has always called Williamsport home,” she said.