It began with midgets.
In 1947, some nine years after Carl Stotz had officially created Little League Baseball, the Maynard Midgets of Stotz' and Little League's hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, defeated a team from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, to become the first Little League World Series champion.
Six years later the National Little League Tournament, as the series was then called, had grown from a regional tournament for leagues from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to a national television event carried by CBS and presided over by a young Manhattan lawyer by the name of Howard Cosell.
Staying true to its core values of free admission and volunteer stewardship -- two policies that continue to this day -- the Little League World Series exploded in popularity both here and abroad during the '50s and '60s. Teams from Venezuela, Spain, Chinese Taipei and Berlin entered the Little League World Series for the first time, and in 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the week of June 14 "National Little League Week."
As the country reeled from the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in the early '70s, Little League was experiencing its own seismic shifts. In 1972 the aluminum bat was introduced to the series for the first time and, two years later, in the wake of Title IX and at the insistence of the Supreme Court, girls were finally admitted to the ranks of Little League. By 1978 nearly 10,000 baseball leagues played under the umbrella of Little League.
It was in President George Bush's final year in office that the current structure and look of the Little League World Series took shape. In 1992 a pool format was implemented to ensure each team played a minimum of three games during the series. And just as Wrigley Field was ushered into the 20th century, the first Little League World Series night game was played at Howard J. Lamade Stadium thanks to a state-of-the-art Musco Sports Lighting System.
As the Little League World Series moved into the next century this grass roots organization that originally played in a vacant lot garnered worldwide attention -- both good and bad.
Innovative projects like the Little League Urban Initiative and the Little League Child Protection Program firmly put Little League at the forefront of social change at the youth sport level. And when in 2001 President George W. Bush became the first sitting president to throw out the ceremonial pitch it seemed that the Little League World Series had entered the national conversation.
Unfortunately in that same year the third-place team from the Bronx was stripped of its records when it became evident that their star pitcher Danny Almonte was actually 14 years old at the time of his participation at the Little League World Series. Both Almonte's father and the team's coach Roland Paulino were banned from Little League for life.
Despite the media circus surrounding the Almonte situation the Little League World Series has remained the pre-eminent youth sport event in the country. The game's emphasis on sportsmanship and teamwork continues to resonate with people around the world -- as evidenced by ESPN/Disney extending its contract with Little League until 2014 -- and helps the game in its efforts to make Williamsport a frequent destination for devotees of the national pastime.
With its continuing policy of free admission and volunteer stewardship the Little League World Series seems poised to provide youth sport leadership for a long time to come.