"Fixed the World Series?"
The idea staggered me. . . It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people--with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.
"How did he happen to do that?"
"He just saw the opportunity."
--The Great Gatsby
With the news of the disqualification of the 2014 U.S. Little League champs due to using illegal players, once again last year’s feel-good story is this year’s ethics-challenging scandal. As the Chicago team churned toward the Little League World Series, apparently their leaders saw an opportunity and took it. And played with the faith of fifty million people. Hearing this, I wondered what Carl Stotz, who founded Little League in 1938, would think of it all. Since Stotz died in 1992, getting his opinion appeared to be a challenge, but fortunately my last cell phone update came with the Friends and Angels plan and I was able to get in touch with him:
DW: Mr Stotz, thanks for taking your time to talk to me.
CS: No problem. Call me Carl. I’m just glad someone down there actually remembers me.
DW: How are things going?
CS: Great, great. You know the weather is always perfect. Never have a rainout. And we just got Ernie Banks last week. Can’t get that big smile off his face. I bet he’s already said, “Let’s play two” a thousand times. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I would actually bet. That’s not allowed up here you know.
DW: The reason I called is to get your opinion of the Little League scandal.
CS: Terrible. Just terrible. You know, I never wanted this when we started. I envisioned a program for local competition for all kids. I wanted adults to teach kids about fair play and sportsmanship.
DW: That reminds me. I’ve got bad news for you later about the Easter Bunny. But back to the scandal.
CS: I actually started worrying about the influence of too much commercial enterprise taking away from the kids and our real goals back in the fifties. The Little League World Series was great, but I started getting a bad feeling.
DW: Didn’t Howard Cosell do the play-by-play for the first telecast of the Little League World Series in 1953.
CS: Yeah, I can’t understand how it got so over-hyped. And that reminds me—Brian Williams did NOT pitch a no-hitter and win the World Series that year like he claims.
DW: Maybe he just mis-remembered.
CS: Anyway, did you hear that they kicked me out of my own organization in 1955?
CS: It’s true. I complained too much about the money and potential for corruption. They didn’t want to hear it. I said they were “making the boys pawns in the managers’ dreams.” That’s a quote from fifty years ago. You could look it up. Was I wrong? Now look at it. They have a $10 million dollar annual budget, the TV contract is better than some major league teams had 10 years ago, the tournament lasts through football season, keeping kids out of school. And they have the managers miked during the games so they all try to be Knute Rockne between every pitch. It’s ridiculous. And they wonder why there’s the incentive to cheat. But still, overall it’s a great organization. I’m glad I started it. Just sorry a lot of adults ruin it. You wouldn’t believe how many guys we get every week who say they wish they’d taken the time to teach their kids what was really important when they had a chance, instead of just trying to win every game.
DW: That’s sad.
CS: I know. They learn too late that the most important thing in a kids’ life is not how he does in a game when he is 12 years old. Listen, it’s been great talking to you, but I gotta go. The kids have practice in a few minutes. Big tournament in Hades this weekend.
DW: Good luck.
CS: Are you kidding? We’ll need more than luck against those guys. Talk about cheating. Every one of their coaches sold their kids’ immortal soul for 10 more miles per hour on their fastball when they were eleven. And I know for a fact that three of their better players don’t live in their district—they play travel ball year ‘round for a team out of Purgatory. But there’s one more reason why we can never beat them.
DW: What’s that?
CS: They’ve got all the umpires.