The Little League was founded by Carl Stotz in 1939 as a three-team league in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The Little League Museum is also located on the Little League International Complex in South Williamsport. It provides a history of Little League Baseball and interactive exhibits for children.
The organization now has its headquarters in South Williamsport, directly across the Susquehanna River from the site of the original league; however, it continues to have a Williamsport postal address. South Williamsport also hosts the Little League World Series at Howard J. Lamade Stadium and Little League Volunteer Stadium. Little League Baseball encourages volunteers to run Little League programs.
A provision of the official national Little League rules holds that “[a]t no time should payment of any fee be a prerequisite for participation in any level of the Little League program.” This stipulation stems from Stotz's personal experience of poverty in the Great Depression .
A regulation game is six innings. If the game is called prior to the completion of six innings, it is considered an official game if four innings have been completed (three and a half, if the home team leads); otherwise, if at least one inning has been completed, it is a suspended game.
In the Junior, Senior, and Big League levels (ages 13-18), a game is seven innings and is official if five innings have been completed.
All members of the team must have at least one plate appearance and play one inning on defense; otherwise, the manager that violates the rule will be suspended for the team's next 2 games. This rule is waived, however, if the game is completed prior to six innings.
The distance between the bases is 60 feet. The distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is 46 feet. Outfield fences must be at least 165 feet from home plate, but are usually 200 feet or more (the fields at the Williamsport complex have fences 225 feet away). The bases and pitching rubber are also slightly smaller than in standard baseball.
The minimum outfield distance in the upper divisions is 300 feet, while the maximum for Big League is 420 feet.
Bats (all levels) may be made from material other than wood (such as aluminum) and must be approved for use in Little League Baseball. The maximum bat length is thirty-three (33) inches and maximum barrel diameter may not exceed 2 1/4 inches. Beginning in 2009 all Little League bats must be labeled with a Bat Performance Factor (BPF) of 1.15 or lower.
Bats for the Junior League level may have a maximum length of thirty-four (34) inches and a maximum barrel diameter of 2 3/4 inches. Bats for the Big and Senior League levels may have a maximum length of thirty-six (36) inches and a maximum barrel diameter of 2 3/4 inches for wood bats and 2 5/8 inches for non-wood bats. All bats must meet the Ball Exit Speed Ratio (BESR) testing standards that are currently used in the NCAA and NFHS (High School).
A base runner may not leave his time-of-pitch base until the pitch reaches the batter.
If a fielder is waiting at the base with the ball, an advancing runner must attempt to avoid contact. A runner may not slide head-first except when retreating to a previously held base.
In the upper levels, runners must still make an attempt to avoid contact if possible, and may not maliciously initiate contact with a fielder.
Players who have been substituted for may return to the game under certain conditions, though a pitcher who has left the game may not return to pitch.
Pitchers in all divisions are limited to a specific pitch count per game and a mandatory rest period between outings. These vary with age and the rest period also depends on the number of pitches thrown.
Local leagues have a certain amount of flexibility. For example, a league may opt to use the "continuous batting order" rule, under which each player on the team’s roster bats, even when not in the defensive lineup. Leagues may also adopt a "mercy rule" allowing the game to be called if one team is ahead by ten or more runs after five innings.
Another division of Little League is the "Challenger Division" which is designed for children with disabilities. One of the aims of Little League, other than simply to have fun, is to teach children about teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play. Their watchwords are Character, Courage, Loyalty. Little League has developed many equipment changes over the years to protect young ball players including the introduction of the full batting helmet and the use of the throat guard for catchers. In recent years, Little League has developed rules to assist young ball players. Little League Baseball has instituted a pitch count to protect young pitchers' arms.
The first Little League game took place on June 6, 1939. Lundy Lumber defeated Lycoming Dairy 23-8. Lycoming Dairy came back to claim the league championship. They, the first-half-season champions, defeated Lundy Lumber, the second-half champs, in a best-of-three season-ending series. The following year a second league was formed in Williamsport and from there Little League Baseball grew from three teams in a small Pennsylvania town to an international organization of nearly 200,000 teams in every U.S. state and over 80 countries all around the world.
According to the Little League Baseball, as of 2007 there were more than 2.3 million players in Little League Baseball worldwide, including 400,000 girls registered in Girl's Softball. For tournament purposes, official Little League is divided into 16 geographic regions; 8 National and 8 international. The National regions are:
The international regions are:
1946 - Little League has expanded to 12 leagues all of which are in Pennsylvania.
1947 - The first league outside of Pennsylvania is founded in Hammonton, New Jersey. Maynard League of Williamsport defeats a team from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania to win the first Little League World Series. Allen Yearick is the first Little League graduate to play professional baseball when he is signed by the Boston Braves.
1948 - Little League has grown to include 94 leagues. Lock Haven returns to the LLWS and defeats a league from St. Petersburg, Florida. The first corporate sponsor, U.S. Rubber is announced, who donate Pro-Keds shoes to teams at the LLWS.
1949 - Little League is featured in the Saturday Evening Post and on Newsreels. Carl Stotz gets hundreds of requests for information on how to form leagues at the local level from all over the United States. Little League incorporates in New York.
1953 - The Little League World Series is televised for the first time. Jim McKay provides the play by play for CBS. Howard Cosell provided play by play for ABC Radio. Joey Jay of Middletown, Connecticut and the Milwaukee Braves is the first Little League graduate to play in the Major Leagues.
1954 - Boog Powell, who would later play for the Baltimore Orioles plays in the Little League World Series for Lakeland, Florida. Ken Hubbs who would later play for the Chicago Cubs also plays in the LLWS for Colton, California. Little League has expanded to more than 3,300 leagues.
1955 - There is a Little League organization in each of the 48 U.S. States. George W. Bush begins playing Little League as a catcher for the Cubs of the Central Little League in Midland, Texas. He is the first Little League grad to be elected President of the United States.
1956 - Carl Stotz severs his ties with Little League Baseball in a dispute over the direction and control of Little League. Stotz remains active in youth baseball with the "Original League" in Williamsport.Fred Shapiro throws a perfect game in the Little League World Series.
1959 - The Little League World Series is moved from Williamsport to the newly built Little League Headquarters in South Williamsport. The protective baseball helmet is developed by Dr. Creighton Hale.
1960 - A team from West Berlin, West Germany is the first team from Europe to play in the Little League World Series. The series is broadcast live for the first time on ABC. Little League has grown to 27,400 teams in more than 5,500 leagues.
1963 - Central Little Leaugue, of Duluth, Minnesota wins the third place game, beating Turkey.
1969 - Taiwan begins a dominant and controversial era that would see them win 17 Little League World Series titles.
1971 - The aluminum baseball bat is first used. It was partly developed by Little League Baseball. Lloyd McClendon of Gary, Indiana dominates the Little League World Series, hitting five home runs in five at-bats. He would later play in the Major Leagues and become the first Little League grad to manage an MLB club with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1973 - Ed Vosberg plays in the Little League World Series for Tucson, Arizona. He would later play in the College World Series for the University of Arizona in 1980 and the World Series in 1997 for the Florida Marlins. Vosberg is the first person to have played in all three world series'.
1975 - In a controversial decision, all foreign teams are banned from the Little League World Series. International play is restored the following year.
1980 - A team from Tampa, Florida representing Belmont Heights Little League is led by two future major leaguers Derek Bell and Gary Sheffield. Bell would return the following year and Belmot Heights again lost in the finals to a team from Taiwan.
1982 - The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum is opened. Cody Webster leads a team from Kirkland, Washington in an upset victory of a powerful team from Taiwan. It was Taiwan's first loss in 31 games.
1988 - Tom Seaver is the first former Little Leaguer to be enshrined in the Peter J. McGovern Museum Hall of Excellence.
1992 - Carl Stotz, the founder of Little League, dies. Lights are installed at Lamade Stadium allowing for the first night games to be played. The series is expanded from single elimination to round robin format.
1994 - Long Beach, California managed by former Major Leaguer Jeff Burroughs and led by his son future Major Leaguer Sean Burroughs is named series champion after Zamboanga City, Philippines is forced to forfeit for playing with ineligible players.
1997 - ESPN2 broadcasts regional play for the first time. Taiwan's baseball association withdraws from Little League Baseball. Bradenton, FL and Pottsville, PA play at Lamade Stadium before the largest crowd ever to attend a non-championship game. The crowd was estimated at over 35,000 fans.
2000 - An expansion project begins at Little League World Series Headquarters. Volunteer Stadium is built. This allows the pool of participants to be doubled from 8 to 16 the following year.
2001 - Volunteer Stadium is opened. George W. Bush becomes the first U.S. President to visit the Little League World Series. Led by phenom Danny Almonte, pitching the first perfect game since 1957, the Rolando Paulino All Stars (Bronx, NY) finish third in the series. The team's entire postseason, however, is wiped from the books when it is found that Almonte was 14 years old.
2007 - Little League expands into Australia for the first time.
2008 - Hawai'i wins the 2008 Little League World Series beating Mexico in the Final.