I read recently that this coming Saturday, June 6, will be the 76th anniversary of the establishment of Little League, and it made me wonder about the origins of youth baseball in Conecuh County.
According to the article, Little League Baseball was established on June 6, 1939 in Williamsport, Pa. by a Pennsylvania oil clerk named Carl Stotz. In the league’s first official game, Lundy Lumber beat Lycoming Dairy, 23-8. The home plate used in that game, the first home plate in Little League history, was a piece of black rubber that Stotz found in his father’s basement and carved into shape with a pocketknife.
The first girl to play Little League was Kathryn Johnston Massar. Massar, who lived in Corning, N.Y., made her Little League debut in 1950. A year later, girls were banned from Little League Baseball and weren’t allowed to play in the league until 1974.
The first Little League World Series was played in 1947, and last year’s televised Little League World Series attracted millions of viewers. Today, millions of children in more than 80 countries play Little League Baseball on more than 160,000 different teams. Needless to say, from such humble beginnings, Little League has come a long way. As mentioned, all of this made me wonder about the origins of youth baseball in Evergreen and Conecuh County, and I have to admit that I’ve never ran across any definitive stories about the origins of youth baseball here. When were the first youth baseball leagues established in Conecuh County? Who was responsible for establishing those leagues? Who were some of the first players? Who was the first girl to play youth baseball in Conecuh County?
For most of its history, Evergreen has been a baseball town. Years and years ago, Evergreen boasted semi-professional and amateur adult baseball and softball leagues that were very successful. Those leagues were in addition to the many community baseball teams and the organized teams at local schools.
Organized youth baseball seemed to come to Conecuh County some time later, and those youth leagues went by a variety of names, including the Junior League, Senior League, Pony League and others. Some of those old leagues were administered by the City of Evergreen and went by a wide variety of rules. Managers were sometimes even allowed to trade players and “buy” them from other teams.
The earliest reference to Little League Baseball that I’ve seen in old editions of The Courant was in 1955, but there’s a good chance that Little League Baseball and other youth baseball leagues were established even earlier than that in Conecuh County. Local kids played Little League through 2010, and in 2011 the local youth league shifted from Little League to Cal Ripken Youth Baseball, which is based in Baltimore, Md.
In the end, if anyone out there knows more details about the establishment of youth baseball, especially Little League Baseball, in Conecuh County, let me hear from you. You can call me at The Courant at 578-1492 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write me at The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.