Did you spend all of or even just part of last summer cheering for the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team? If you're a sports fan, you probably did. The team, which hailed from Chicago's South Side, was the feel-good story of the summertime as they became the first all-African-American team to ever win the U.S. Championship during the Little League World Series. But that feel-good story isn't going to have a happy ending after all.
Early this morning, Little League officials announced that they are stripping Jackie Robinson West of the U.S. title that it won. They claim that the team used players who live outside of the district that it represents, so they've taken away their title and suspended their manager Darold Butler from all Little League activities. They've also removed Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly from his post and sent a very clear message to all of the other Little League teams out there.
"For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses," Little League International CEO Stephen D. Keener said in a statement. "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."
The U.S. Little League title has now been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas, which was the team Jackie Robinson West beat 7-5 in the U.S. title game to take the crown.
Keener didn't really elaborate on how Little League officials know that Jackie Robinson West cheated. But DNAinfo dig some digging around and discovered that Chris Janes, the vice president of Evergreen Park Little League in Chicago, played a key role in blowing the whistle on the team. It's worth noting that Evergreen lost to Jackie Robinson West 43-2 in the sectional playoffs last year before advancing to the Little League World Series. But in the DNAinfo piece, Janes credits Jackie Robinson West as being the "best Little League team I've ever seen" before explaining how he found out that they played with several kids who shouldn't have been allowed on the team because of where they live.
Whatever the case, this is obviously an extremely sad day for the kids who played on Jackie Robinson West. From winning the U.S. title to meeting President Obama, they had a hell of a run last summer. But all of their accomplishments were just taken away from them because of the actions of the adults who led the team.
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