How Little League Baseball Failed a Team of Young Black Players in 1955

Members of the 1955 Cannon Street YMCA All-Star team sit in the bleachers during the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. The team was invited to watch the games but not allowed to play. (© Little League Baseball)

The Little League World Series – unlike the one played in Major League Baseball – really is a world series.

Millions of boys and girls play Little League Baseball in more than 80 countries and six continents. This year’s World Series will conclude Sunday with its championship game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The organization promotes itself with this inclusive message, “No place for racism and hate in Little League.” These words are not a gimmick.

Little League Baseball was part of the civil rights movement before the movement had a name. The struggle for racial equality in the United States included Little League Baseball’s civil war in 1955, when hundreds of Southern teams seceded from the organization after they were told they had to play Black teams.

Little League barred discrimination at its founding

Little League Baseball was integrated during the first Little League World Series in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

The organization barred racial discrimination when it was founded in 1939, before most of white America gave racial equality any consideration, and before Blacks and whites played in professional sports, attended the same schools, swam in the same pools and ate at the same lunch counters.

Little League baseball was even integrated in parts of the South. But that ended, ironically, in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in public schools.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Chris Lamb