By Frederick H. Lowe
Little League International announced Wednesday that it stripped the all-black Jackie Robinson West Little League Team of its championship titles for rule violations, which included placing players on the team who did not qualify because they lived outside the team’s geographic boundaries.
The League also suspended Darold Butler, the team manager, from Little League activity and Michael Kelly, Illinois District administrator, has been removed from his position, the League office said in a statement published on Facebook.
The team has been placed on probation with its tournament privileges suspended until new leadership in the positions of president, Anne Haley, and treasurer, Bill Haley, have been replaced or appointed and that the league is fully compliant with Little League International Regulations, League officials said.
The Jackie Robinson League was the 2014 winner of the Great Lakes Regional and the United States Championships, but the team from Chicago’s South Side lost the World Series to a team from Seoul, Korea.
The city of Chicago gave the team a heroes’ welcome with a parade and a rally in Millennium Park. The team also posed with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Oval Office.
Soon after these celebratory events took place, there were rumors that the team’s coaches had cheated.
“Little League International used a falsified boundary map for their 2014 tournament, and Jackie Robinson West Little League officials met with other leagues in Illinois District 4 to try to get the territory they wrongfully claimed was theirs for their 2014 tournament. The decision is based on falsified documents and illegally expanded boundaries that included residences that would verify the players’ eligibility,” League officials said.
“By default, the 2014 championships vacated by Jackie Robinson West Little League will be given to other finalists in those games, with Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas, Nevada, being handed the 2014 United States Little League Baseball World Series Championship. New Albany (Ind.) Little League Great Lakes Regional Little League Baseball Championship and Tri-Cities Little League in West Dundee, IL. will be given the 2014 Illinois State Little League Baseball Championship.
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., head of Chicago-based Operation PUSH, called the decision unfair and said the Little League should restore the title or face a lawsuit.
This is not the first time adults have fouled a sport for kids. In 1973, following the 36th All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, Jimmy Gronen, 14, was stripped of his championship title after race officials found he planted an electromagnet in the nose of his car that gave it a boost over competitors at the steel starting gate.
Gronen installed the device at the urging of his uncle Robert Lange, a ski boot manufacturer. Gronen lost his $7,500 college scholarship and he was ordered to return his championship trophy and the silk jacket he received as champion. Instead, Gronen destroyed the trophy and gave away the jacket.