Little League Baseball and Softball (officially, Little League International) is a nonprofit organization based in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, United States, which organizes local youth baseball and softball leagues throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Founded by Carl Stotz in 1939 as a three-team league in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Little League Baseball encourages local volunteers to organize and operate Little League programs that are annually chartered through Little League International. Each league can structure itself to best serve the children in the area in which the league operates. Several specific divisions of Little League baseball and softball are available to children ages 4 to 16. The organization holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.
The organization's administrative office is located in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The first Little League Baseball World Series was played in Williamsport in 1947. The Little League International Complex hosts the annual Little League Baseball World Series at Howard J. Lamade Stadium and Little League Volunteer Stadium, and is also the site of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum, which provides a history of Little League Baseball and Softball through interactive exhibits for children. Some Major League Baseball (MLB) players played in Little League.
Carl Stotz, a resident of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, founded Little League Baseball in 1939. He began experimenting with his idea in the summer of 1938 when he gathered his nephews, Jimmy and Major Gehron and their neighborhood friends. They tried different field dimensions over the course of the summer and played several informal games. The following summer Stotz felt that he was ready to establish what later became Little League Baseball. The first league in Williamsport had just three teams, each sponsored by a different business. The first teams, Jumbo Pretzel, Lycoming Dairy, and Lundy Lumber, were managed by Carl Stotz and two of his friends, George and Bert Bebble. The men, joined by their wives and another couple, formed the first-ever Little League Board of Directors.
The first League game took place on June 6, 1939. Lundy Lumber defeated Lycoming Dairy, 23-8. Lycoming Dairy came back to claim the league championship. They, the first-half-season champions, defeated Lundy Lumber, the second-half champs, in a best-of-three season-ending series. The following year a second league was formed in Williamsport, and from there Little League Baseball grew to become an international organization of nearly 200,000 teams in every U.S. state and over 80 countries around the world.
From 1951 through 1973, Little League was for boys only. In 1974, Little League rules were revised to allow participation by girls in the baseball program following the result of a lawsuit filed by the National Organization for Women on behalf of Maria Pepe.
According to the Little League Baseball and Softball participation statistics following the 2008 season, there were nearly 2.6 million players in Little League Baseball worldwide, including both boys and girls, including 400,000 registered in softball (also including both boys and girls). For tournament purposes, Little League Baseball is divided into 16 geographic regions; eight National and eight international. Each summer, Little League operates seven World Series tournaments at various locations throughout the U.S. (Little League softball and Junior, Senior, and Big League baseball and softball).
1946: Little League has expanded to 12 leagues, all in Pennsylvania.
1947: The first league outside of Pennsylvania is founded in Hammonton, New Jersey. Maynard League of Williamsport defeats a team from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania to win the first Little League World Series. Allen Yearick is the first Little League graduate to play professional baseball when he is signed by the Boston Braves.
1948: Little League has grown to include 94 leagues. Lock Haven returns to the Little League World Series and defeats a league from St. Petersburg, Florida. The first corporate sponsor, U.S. Rubber, is announced, who donate Pro-Keds shoes to teams at the Little League World Series.
1949: Little League is featured in the Saturday Evening Post and on newsreels. Carl Stotz gets hundreds of requests for information on how to form leagues at the local level from all over the United States. Little League incorporates in New York.
1950 or 1951 (sources contradict) Kathryn 'Kay' Johnston -Massar became the first girl to play Little League baseball. Her mother cut her braids and she dressed like a boy. Not knowing what to call herself, she adopted the nickname "Tubby" because of her love of Little Lulu comic books, and joined the Kings Dairy Little League team in Corning, N.Y., posing as a boy. After earning her way onto the team and being assigned first base, she told her coach she was a girl, but he said "That's O.K., you're a darned good player." Kay, aka 'Tubby' (which all her teammates continued to call her even after they knew the truth), played first base for the season, but was forced to quit after just one season because a new rule, known as the Tubby Rule, was created. It declared, "Rule III (f) Girls are not eligible under any circumstances."; that rule was in force until 1974.
1953: The Little League World Series is televised for the first time. Jim McKay provides the play by play for CBS. Howard Cosell provides play by play for ABC Radio. Joey Jay of Middletown, Connecticut and the Milwaukee Braves is the first Little League graduate to play in the Major Leagues.
1954: Boog Powell, who later played for the Baltimore Orioles plays in the Little League World Series for Lakeland, Florida. Ken Hubbs, who later played for the Chicago Cubs, plays in the Little League World Series for Colton, California. Little League has expanded to more than 3,300 leagues. Jim Barberi who later played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and in a Major League World Series was also a member of the Schenectady, New York team who won the 1954 Series.
1955: There is a Little League organization in each of the 48 U.S. States. George W. Bush begins playing Little League as a catcher for the Cubs of the Central Little League in Midland, Texas. He is the first Little League graduate to be elected President of the United States. The all-black Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars in Charleston, South Carolina created an uproar that every other Little League organization in South Carolina refused to play Cannon Street. Little League sent an ultimatum that the team be able to play, which the other leagues refused, where the other 61 organizations returned their charters and formed their own league in response. No team from the state had made the tournament until 2015.
1956: Carl Stotz severs his ties with Little League Baseball in a dispute over the direction and control of Little League. Stotz believed the league was becoming over-commercialized by Little League president, Peter J. McGovern. Stotz remains active in youth baseball with the "Original League" in Williamsport. Little League records its first on-field death in Garland, Texas as 12-year-old Richard "Rick" Oden is hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Jerry Armstrong. The city park location of the incident is renamed "Rick Oden Field." As batting helmets are yet to be developed, Garland teams finish the season wearing youth football helmets over their baseball caps when batting. Later that year, Fred Shapiro throws a perfect game in the Little League World Series.
1957: Angel Macias throws a perfect game and Monterrey, Mexico, becomes the first team from outside the United States to win the Little League World Series. (Portrayed in 2010 film "The Perfect Game".)
1959: The Little League World Series moves from Williamsport to the newly built Little League Headquarters in South Williamsport. The protective baseball helmet is developed by Dr. Creighton J. Hale.
1960: A team from West Berlin, West Germany, is the first team from Europe to play in the Little League World Series. The series is broadcast live for the first time on ABC. Little League has grown to 27,400 teams in more than 5,500 leagues.
1967: A team from West Tokyo, Japan, is the first team from Asia to win the Little League World Series.
1969: Taiwan begins a dominant era that would see them win 17 Little League World Series titles.
1971: The aluminum baseball bat is first used. It was partly developed by Little League Baseball. Lloyd McClendon of Gary, Indiana, dominates the Little League World Series, hitting five home runs in five at-bats. He later played in the Major Leagues and become the first Little League graduate to manage an MLB club with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1973: Ed Vosberg plays in the Little League World Series for Tucson, Arizona. He later played in the College World Series for the University of Arizona in 1980 and the World Series in 1997 for the Florida Marlins. Vosberg is the first person to have played in all three world series.
1974: Girls are formally permitted to play in the Little League Baseball program as result of lawsuit brought on behalf of Frances Pescatore and Jenny Fulle, and a Little League Softball program for both boys and girls is created. Bunny Taylor becomes the first girl to pitch a no-hitter.
1975: In a controversial decision, all foreign teams are banned from the Little League World Series. International play is restored the following year.
1980: A team from Tampa, Florida, representing Belmont Heights Little League, is led by two future major leaguers Derek Bell and Gary Sheffield. Bell returns the following year and Belmont Heights again loses in the finals to a team from Taiwan.
1982: The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum opens. Cody Webster leads a team from Kirkland, Washington, in an upset victory of a powerful team from Taiwan. It was Taiwan's first loss in 31 games. This game was later featured on ESPN's 30 for 30 series Little Big Men.
1984:: Victoria Roche, a 12-year-old from Belgium, becomes the first girl to play in the Little League World Series.
1992: Carl Stotz, the founder of Little League, dies. Lights are installed at Lamade Stadium allowing for the first night games to be played. The series is expanded from single elimination to round-robin format. Long Beach, California, managed by former Major Leaguer Jeff Burroughs and led by his son, future Major Leaguer Sean Burroughs, is named series champion after Zamboanga City, Philippines, is forced to forfeit for playing with ineligible players.
1997: ESPN2 broadcasts regional play for the first time. Taiwan's baseball association withdraws from Little League Baseball (they would rejoin in 2003) over newly established rules on zoning. Bradenton, Florida, and Pottsville, Pennsylvania, play at Lamade Stadium before the largest crowd ever to attend a non-championship game. The crowd was estimated at over 35,000 fans.
2000: An expansion project begins at Little League International. Volunteer Stadium is built. This allows the  pool of participants to be doubled from 8 to 16 the following year.
2001: The LLWS expands from 8 to 16 teams, with the following changes to regional lineups (post-2000 regions in bold):
In other news, Volunteer Stadium is opened. George W. Bush becomes the first U.S. president to visit the Little League World Series. Led by phenom Danny Almonte, pitching the first perfect game since 1957, the Rolando Paulino All Stars (Bronx, New York) finish third in the series. The team's entire postseason, however, is wiped from the books when it is found that Almonte was 14 years old.
2002: Austin Dillon plays for Southwest Forsyth (County) Little League in Clemmons, North Carolina. The grandson of Richard Childress, he would win NASCAR championships in the Camping World Truck Series in 2011 and Nationwide Series in 2013, and made his Sprint Cup debut in 2014.
2004: Effective with the 2004 LLWS, the Europe Region is renamed EMEA, for Europe, Middle East, Africa.
2007: Little League expands into Australia for the first time. Effective with the 2007 LLWS, the Asia and Pacific regions are merged to form the Asia-Pacific Region, with Japan being split into its own region.
2008: Effective with this year's LLWS, the Transatlantic and EMEA regions are reorganized into the Europe and Middle East and Africa (MEA) regions. The previous nationality restrictions for players from these regions are abolished. Hawai'i wins the 2008 Little League World Series beating Mexico in the Final.
2008: Little League International relocates the Southeast Region Headquarters From Gulfport, Florida, to Warner Robins, Ga. Little League International completes renovation of its administration building in South Williamsport, Pa.
2010: The World Series tournament is reorganized, eliminating pool play and adopting double-elimination until the bracket winners are determined. Little League announces plans to add a pilot division in baseball for ages 12–13 to help baseball Little Leaguers make the transition to regulation-size fields in Junior League Baseball. Bartlett, Illinois, becomes biggest little league.
2011: The World Series officially eliminates the two four-team brackets and puts all eight teams in the United States bracket and all eight teams in the International bracket, with a SEC Baseball Tournament style flipped bracket on the loser's bracket to prevent rematches, but does not require the loser to defeat the winner's bracket team twice in either Saturday championship game where the winner advances to the Sunday final.
The national regions represented in the annual Little League Baseball World Series are:
The international regions are:
The best-known event on the Little League Baseball and Softball calendar is the annual Little League Baseball World Series, which is held every August in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Local and regional tournaments leading up to the World Series are held in the U.S. insular areas of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and throughout the world. In 2003, for example, there were tournaments in Canada, Latin America (Mexico, Aruba, Curaçao, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela), Europe (Germany and Poland), and Asia (Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan).
The Little League Baseball World Series is just one of nine World Series conducted by Little League International every year, each one held in a different location.
Little League Baseball has several baseball divisions for boys and girls, based on age.
The major divisions of Little League Baseball have their own World Series format as follows:
|Division||Location||First Held||Age of players||Series|
|Little League Baseball||South Williamsport, Pennsylvania||1947||9–12 years old||Little League World Series|
|Intermediate League Baseball||Livermore, California||2013||11–13 years old||Intermediate League World Series|
|Junior League Baseball||Taylor, Michigan||1981||13–14 years old||Junior League World Series|
|Senior League Baseball||Bangor, Maine||1961||14–16 years old||Senior League World Series|
|Big League Baseball||Easley, South Carolina||1968||16–18 years old||Big League World Series
(discontinued after 2016)
Tee-ball is for boys and girls ages 4–5, with local leagues given the option to allow 6–7-year-olds to play. In Tee-ball, players hit the ball off of a tee located atop home plate; live pitching is not allowed. The purpose of the division is to teach young children the basic fundamentals of hitting and fielding.
The Minor League Baseball division is generally for children ages 7–11, with local leagues given the option to allow 6-year-old children to try out. Local leagues are permitted to further divide the Minor League division based on player age and/or experience, and often consist of coach-pitch (i.e., the batter's coach lightly pitching the ball) or machine-pitch at lower levels, with defensive players pitching at higher levels.
"The 9–10 Year Old Baseball Division for boys and girls was established as a tournament program in 1994. It gives children of this age the opportunity to experience tournament competition, up to state level. Players on these teams can be chosen from among Major Division and/or Minor Division teams. The diamond used is a 60-foot diamond and the pitching distance is 46 feet."
"The Little League Baseball Division (sometimes known as the Major Division) is for boys and girls ages 9–12. A local league may choose to limit its Major Division to 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds, or 11–12-year-olds. The diamond used is a 60-foot diamond and the pitching distance is 46 feet. The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or "All Stars") of 11–12-year-olds from within this division, and the team may enter the International Tournament. The culmination of the International Tournament is the Little League Baseball World Series, featuring teams from around the globe. All expenses for the teams advancing to the World Series (travel, meals, and housing) are paid by Little League Baseball."
In 2012, Little League announced plans to add a new division of play for the 2013 season, the Little League Intermediate Division. This Division is played on a field with a 50-foot (15 m) pitching distance and 70-foot (21 m) base paths. It is open to players ages 11–13, but may be limited to ages 11–12 or 12–13 by a local league. Players in this division are able to lead off and steal. The rules follow rules similar to those of the Junior, Senior, and Big League Divisions of play.
"The Junior League Baseball Division is a program for boys and girls ages 13–14, using a conventional 90-foot (27 m) diamond with a pitching distance of 60 feet 6 inches (18.44 m). (A modified diamond is available during the regular season.) The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or "All Stars") of 13-14-year-olds from within this division (and/or from within the Senior League Division), and the team may enter the International Tournament. The culmination of the International Tournament is the Junior League Baseball World Series, featuring teams from around the globe. All expenses for the teams advancing to the World Series (travel, meals, and housing) are paid by Little League Baseball."
"The Senior League Baseball Division is for boys and girls 14–16 years old, using a conventional 90-foot (27 m) diamond with a pitching distance of 60 feet 6 inches (18.44 m). The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or "All Stars") of 14- to 16-year-olds from within this division (and/or from within the Junior League or Big League divisions), and the team may enter the International Tournament. The culmination of the International Tournament is the Senior League Baseball World Series, featuring teams from around the globe. All expenses for the teams advancing to the World Series (travel, meals, and housing) are paid by Little League Baseball."
"The Big League Baseball Division is for boys and girls ages 16–18, using a conventional 90-foot (27 m) diamond with a pitching distance of 60 feet 6 inches (18.44 m). The local league has an option to choose a Tournament Team (or "All Stars") of 16–18-year-olds from within this division (and/or from within the Senior League Division), and the team may enter the International Tournament. The culmination of the International Tournament is the Big League Baseball World Series, featuring teams from around the globe. All expenses for the teams advancing to the World Series (travel, meals, and housing) are paid by Little League Baseball."
Little League introduced the Challenger Division in 1989 to provide opportunities for children with physical and intellectual challenges to participate in the Little League program. The Challenger Division utilizes a "buddy system" in which Little Leaguers assist Challenger participants in the areas of batting, running and fielding. Challenger Division games are typically non-competitive in nature.
Introduced in 1989, the Little League Challenger Division is for participants ages 4–18. Games are played on a 46/60 field and are non-competitive.
Approved at the 2014 Little League International Congress the Senior League Challenger Division launched in 2015. This division is for participants ages 15 and above (no maximum age). Games are played on a 60/90 field and are non-competitive. Leagues may request permission to play games on a smaller field as well.
As of 2016, nearly 1,000 Little Leagues in 10 countries around the world offered the Challenger Program providing an opportunity for more than 31,000 individuals with physical or intellectual challenges to participate in the Little League program.
Little League Baseball has several softball divisions for girls and boys, based on age.
|Division||Location||First Held||Age of players||Series|
|Little League Softball||Portland, Oregon||1974||9–12 years old||Little League World Series (softball)|
|Junior League Softball||Kirkland, Washington||1999||12–14 years old||Junior League World Series (softball)|
|Senior League Softball||Sussex County, Delaware||1976||13–16 years old||Senior League World Series (softball)|
|Big League Softball||Kalamazoo, Michigan||1982||14–18 years old||Big League World Series (softball)|
The playing rules for the baseball divisions essentially follow the "Official Baseball Rules" (as defined by and used by Major League Baseball and published at Official Baseball Rules at MLB.com), especially with respect to the upper divisions (Junior, Senior, and Big League). Some major exceptions are outlined in the following sections, and these apply to Little League (Minor and Major, ages 7–12) except as otherwise noted.
Unlike Major League Baseball and most other sports such as football, soccer, and basketball, the official rules of Little League Baseball are available to the general public only by online subscription ($20) or as a printed edition ($7 plus $3 for "shipping and handling" within the US via UPS). In Canada, rulebook orders requested through LittleLeague.ca are routed to the US website at the same prices, except that "shipping and handling" to Canada via UPS is US$15.51, for a total of US$22.51 for a single printed copy.
Rulebooks are not available in sporting goods or other stores and must be ordered directly from Little League Baseball, Incorporated or one of its "Regional Centers". One paper copy is provided to each team that has sent in an "Application for Charter and Insurance", although previously two copies were provided.
Little League has been criticized for requiring payment to view its rules. However, the organization counters by claiming it has been exposed to lawsuits in the past in cases involving organizations not officially affiliated with Little League but which nonetheless use its rules.
A regulation game is 6 innings. If the game is called prior to the completion of six innings, it is considered an official game if four innings have been completed (three and a half, if the home team leads); otherwise, if at least one inning has been completed, it is a suspended game.
In Intermediate Little League, as well as the Junior, Senior, and Big League levels (ages 13–18), a game is seven innings and is official if five innings have been completed.
In all divisions except Senior and Big League, every player on the team roster must have at least one plate appearance and play six consecutive outs on defense in each game. The penalty for a manager violating the rule is a two-game suspension. This rule is waived if the game is completed prior to the usual duration of the game (six innings in Little League and below, seven innings in Intermediate Little League and Junior League). This rule is modified during tournament play. During tournament play, teams that have 13 or more players dressed at the field for a game are mandated to have one (1) "At Bat" during the game per player with no defensive requirement. Teams that have 12 or fewer players dressed at the field for a tournament game require each player to receive one (1) "At Bat" plus six consecutive outs played in the field on defense.
The size of the field is dependent on the division of play.
Minor League and Little League
Intermediate Little League
Junior League, Senior League, and Big League
Bats (all levels) may be made from wood or other materials (such as aluminum) and must be approved for use in Little League Baseball. For the Majors Division and below, the maximum bat length is thirty-three (33) inches and barrel diameter may not exceed 21⁄4 inches. Beginning in 2009 all Little League bats must be labeled with a Bat Performance Factor (BPF) of 1.15 or lower.
Bats for the Junior League level may have a maximum length of thirty-four (34) inches and a maximum barrel diameter of 25⁄8 inches. Bats for the Big and Senior League levels may have a maximum length of thirty-six (36) inches and a maximum barrel diameter of 25⁄8 inches. Non-wood Big and Senior League bats must meet the Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) testing standards that are currently used in the NCAA and NFHS (high school). Intermediate Little League bats must meet Junior League specifications.
When the pitcher is ready to pitch, a baserunner may not leave the bag until the pitch reaches the batter in Minor League and standard Little League. In the upper levels, including Intermediate Little League, the runner can leave the bag at any time while the ball is in play.
If a fielder is waiting at the base with the ball, an advancing runner must attempt to avoid contact. A runner may not slide head-first except when retreating to a previously held base.
In the upper levels, runners must still make an attempt to avoid contact if possible, and may not maliciously initiate contact with a fielder.
In Tee-ball, Minor League, and Little League (if 'uncaught third strike' rule is waived by the local league), the batter is out after the third strike regardless of whether the pitched ball is held by the catcher. In Little League (both standard and Intermediate), Junior, Senior, and Big League, a batter may attempt to advance to first base on a dropped third strike if first base is unoccupied with less than two outs or if first base is unoccupied or occupied with two outs.
If the batter is hit by a pitch, the batter gets walked automatically. However, if the batter does not make an attempt to get out of the way of the pitched ball, the home-plate umpire may continue the at-bat.
Players who have been substituted for may return to the game under certain conditions, though a player who is removed as pitcher may not return to pitch.
Pitchers in all divisions are limited to a specific pitch count per game and a mandatory rest period between outings. These vary with age. The rest period also depends on the number of pitches thrown.
If the pitcher hits too many batters with the ball, or intentionally hits the batter, he is ejected from the pitching spot.
Historically, a pitcher could intentionally walk a batter by simply announcing his intent to do so and not have to actually throw any pitches. Beginning in 2008, the pitcher had to actually pitch the required four balls (which were counted against the pitch count). In 2017, the Major and Minor levels of Little League Baseball aligned with a new rule of Major League Baseball and allowed the batter to intentionally walk a batter simply by declaration. The intentional walk adds 4 to the pitcher's pitch count. This change rescinded a former rule in which the team at bat could decline the award of first base and force the pitcher to pitch, such as to further inflate the pitch count to force the removal of the pitcher.
Local leagues have a certain amount of flexibility. For example, a league may opt to use the "continuous batting order" rule (4.04), under which each player on the team's roster bats, even when not in the defensive lineup. Leagues may also waive the "ten-run rule" (4.10(e)) which ends the game if one team is ahead by ten or more runs after four innings.
The following is an incomplete list of current and former Major League Baseball players who played Little League Baseball. Each player also participated in the Little League World Series, unless otherwise noted.