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A look back to when the Series first welcomed world’s players

It was in August 1947 when Lycoming County hosted the first Little League World Series, but it wasn’t until 1952 when the Series welcomed players from other parts of the world.

Excitement filled the air as “the first foreign team ever to participate in the Series – Montreal, Canada” was scheduled to take on a team from Hackensack, New Jersey on at 6 p.m. Tuesday Aug. 26, according to a 1952 edition of the Gazette and Bulletin, a forerunner to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

Among the youth in Canada, a love of baseball also thrived along side a love of hockey.

Bill Gray, a writer for The Montreal Gazette stated in his April 5th,1852 column that, “the pint-size game has come to stay not only in United States, (but in) Canada and South America. This summer will see clubs from all over Canada participate in tournament play.”

Gray went on to describe that Montreal teams were made up of four leagues – American A, American B, National A and National B. “(The) Winners of the four leagues enter a local playoff series previous to the All Star selections which will send the locals in quest of a Little League World Series pennant,” Gray said.

The winners of that little league tournament went on to face a team from Schenectady, New York on Aug. 22, 1952, and the Canadian kids were victorious.

“The Montreal Little League All Stars pulled … (a) major surprise by defeating the Corning (Schenectady), N.Y. Team 3 – 1 …The Quebecers will now proceed to Williamsport, Pa., to take part in the Little League World Series. They encounter the New Jersey champs,” another writer for The Montreal Gazette said in the Aug. 25th, 1952 edition.

It was added that young Canadians played with “hustle and daring” which had “upset the bigger and more powerful” teams from New York.

However, their Little League World Series opponents from Hackensack, New Jersey, were excited to take part in what would become Series history.

“The 14 players, batboy, and two managers arrived in the bustling city by train …They were immediately escorted by motorcyclemen to the Hotel Lycoming (now the Genetti Hotel) where they will be housed for the rest of the week,” columnist Ronald D. Page wrote in the August 26th, 1952 edition of the The Record, a newspaper out of Bergen County, New Jersey.

Page said there was a real excitement for baseball in Williamsport during the Little League World Series.

“It was cool when the team arrived here yesterday, and traffic was at bumper-to-bumper tempo. Folks here say it’s normal, for the city has a population of slightly under 45,000, and it appears they all drive cars. Its traffic department has instituted an intricate system of 1-way streets in the main business district in an effort to speed travel,” Page said.

He said that players were excited about “a picnic for visiting teams at Sportman’s Park which will be given … by the Williamsport Community Trade Association.”

Then at 6 p.m. on the night of Aug. 26, the Hackensack team faced the and the players from Montreal. Page noted that about 9,000 spectators watched the game along with the mayor of Hackensack “flew here for the opening game.”

It was credited that each team played their best, but the kids from Montreal would not advance.

“After trailing 7-4, the New Jersey eight … pulled together five hits, two walks, two errors and two balks in the fourth inning for eight runs that sewed up the win,” the Montreal Gazette recorded on Aug. 27.

It was then stated that “four Montreal pitchers failed to stem Hackensack’s 11-hit attack. Neal McGregor was the losing hurler, while southpaw Rudy Davis in the relief picked up the victory for Hackensack.”

Yet, Page was quick to praise the team from Montreal.

“For sheer color, spirit, and gameness, Montreal has sole possession of the honors. About the smallest team in the tourney, they hustled every minute.”

Days after the game, Page continued to praise the Canadian players for their spirit. He said on Aug. 28, 1952, the Hackensack/Montreal game was the most thrilling game of the series.

“Both teams were making their first start, and the overflowing crowd immediately took the little Canadians to their hearts,” Page said.

While the Hackensack team advanced to the next round, they were defeated by a team from Monongahela, Pennsylvania.

Ultimately, the team from Monongahela would lose to a team from Norwalk, Connecticut – which became the 1952 Little League World Series champions.

Though the team from Montreal lost, another writer for the Montreal Gazette said the players deserved recognition.

“Both the city and province would do well to consider some of the recognition for the feats of the Montreal Nationales All-Stars in getting as far as they have against the cream of the American competition. South of the border kids are bred on baseball as they are bred on hockey here, and for a bunch of Quebec kids to get down to the finals is no mean achievement,” the columnist said on Aug. 27, 1952.

He concluded, “Both the city and the province have in the past extended honor to adult amateurs and professionals for their athletic feats, so there is plenty of precedent. Rings, or watches, or some tangible gift would mean as much to these kids as winning their ball games.”

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