World Series was once-in-a-lifetime experience

July 26, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Not everyone makes it to the Little League World Series.

In fact, it is a very exclusive club. Of the millions of children who have picked up a baseball glove and bat since the series was first played in 1947, only 5,730 have been able to take the field at the World Series stadium in Williamsport, Pa.

For 14 boys from Hagerstown's National Little League, their moment in the August sun came 30 years ago. Years of sandlot ball, pickup games during school recesses and endless practices produced a talented team, schooled in the basics, that kept winning and winning.

When the summer ended, they were the sixth best Little League team in the world.

"This was one those once-in-a-lifetime teams," said Jane Smith, mother of left fielder Mark Smith.

One Hagerstown team had made it to the Little League World Series before, in 1950, but none has accomplished the feat since.


"As time continues, it becomes more special, because no one else has repeated it," said Greg Haupt, centerfielder for the '68 team.

Hagerstown's boys of summer will be recalled this Thursday at 9:30 p.m. in an ABC News documentary titled "The American Game," which follows the ups and downs of today's Little League baseball, and looks at the city's past accomplishments in the game.

"In 1968, the country was coming apart at the seams. The race riots and political assassinations, the war in Vietnam. Through it all, Hagerstown continued to produce good baseball teams. They swept to a district championship. And they took the state championship, as well," host Peter Jennings says during the program.

Some members of the '68 team have expressed concern that the show will portray Hagerstown in a negative light - a sleepy blue-collar town oblivious to a changing world.

Ed Owens, a coach on the '68 team, said he hopes the documentary will at least show the positives that can come out of Little League.

"I think it's nice. It's not only nice to recognize the '68 team, but in general recognize all those children who play Little League."

And the secret to the success of the '68 team?

"We just completely outhustled everyone we played," Owens said.

related story: '68 was great for National Little League

The Herald-Mail Articles