Updated at 11:24 a.m.
Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West team, the first all-African-American team to win the U.S. championship, has been stripped of its title after Little League International said today that the team had violated residency rules.
Patrick Smith from member station WBEZ tells our Newscast unit that Little League International says the team illegally used players from outside its geographic area.
The team’s wins in the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament, where it lost to a South Korean team in the final, as well as wins in the Great Lakes Regional and U.S. championships, have been vacated, Little League International said.
The team’s manager has been suspended from Little League activity, and the Illinois District 4 administrator has been removed from his job.
In a statement announcing the decision, Little League International said the team used a falsified boundary map in the 2014 tournament, and that “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.”
“This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome,” Stephen D. Keener, Little League International president and CEO, said in the statement.
The U.S. championship has been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.
DNAinfo, a Chicago-based news site, has the background on the story. The news site first reported in December 2014 that a “suburban league has asked Little League International to review the eligibility of the players, arguing that public accolades offered to the players after the U.S. title exposed many didn’t live in the narrow South Side boundaries from where the team is supposed to draw.”
The news site also reported that “Jackie Robinson West officials secretly expanded the league’s boundaries to grab star players, encroaching on territories belonging to neighboring South Side leagues.” Other leagues did not sign off, as was required, the news site said.
[You can read the site’s full coverage here.]
The Chicago Sun-Times adds that in December, the national organization rejected allegations that several members of the team violated the league’s residency requirements.
Pat Wilson, senior vice president of operations for Little League International, was dismissive of the complaint, but acknowledged that some players’ addresses did not match the addresses Little League International had on file, the newspaper said. It added that Wilson said Jackie Robinson West provided a satisfactory explanation for those discrepancies.
Jackie Robinson West’s wins captured Chicago’s imagination. NPR’s Cheryl Corley, reporting at the time, said: “It’s been 31 years since an all-black team made it into the Little League Baseball World Series. And that was also the Jackie Robinson West team in 1983.
“Since then the number of African-Americans involved in baseball in the major leagues as well as Little League has been on the decline as basketball and football became more popular.”
Natalie Moore of Chicago Public Radio reported at the time, “JRW’s national win has been a unifying moment for many here. The 11- and 12-year-old boys captured the city’s heart during the series.”
Previous winners that have had their wins vacated are Zamboanga (Philippines) City Little League in 1992, which had won the title, and Rolando Paulino Little League from Bronx, N.Y., in 2001, which had finished third.