I love Little League baseball. Like most of you, it was my introduction to the game in an organized way. I have memories just like you, successes and failures (and Snow Cones!) that will last me a lifetime.
The Little League World Series is a tremendous event. Every year, teams from around the world battle it out for the title of World Champions. Today it will be a team from Chicago taking on the South Koreans for the opportunity of a lifetime.
You will see some gaudy numbers that tell you how the United States has dominated the Little League World Series. Our boys in red, white and blue have taken home 33 world titles. The next closest country is Taiwan with 17, followed by Japan with just 9. Our 12-year-olds own this sport, globally.
Except this isn’t really a world series.
Prior to 1976, the Little League World Series was played in true bracket format. Each country, the United States included, entered one team into the winner takes all tournament.
But in 1976 the LLWS was split into two brackets, an American and an International. The winner from each would meet in the championship game. Why? From 1967-1976, Taiwan or Japan took home 8 of the 10 world titles. We were getting dominated by our friends from the Far East.
The new split-bracket system guaranteed that a team from the United States would be in the finals of the LLWS every year. In other words, the fix was in. We now have a 50/50 shot of winning a world title every year. Those are pretty good odds. The rest of the world has to plow through, well … the rest of the world, to reach the championship game.
Can you imagine if we did this in the World Baseball Classic? Can you imagine if we told Japan or Korea that they had to emerge from a tournament of every other country in order to have the privilege of playing the United States team in the finals? The likely response would be "Thanks, but no thanks."
I love Little League, I love this event, but let’s make it a true WORLD series, where the best in the world have to beat the rest of the world to be champions. Just like they do in the WBC, the World Games and the Olympics.