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Bottorf brought baseball to kids

Founder of National Little League dies

Founder of National Little League dies

March 14, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Before 1949, there was no Little League Baseball in Hagerstown.

But Harry Fenton Bottorf Jr. and a few others decided young boys needed to have a wholesome sports organization to join, and the rest is history.

Bottorf died Wednesday at the age of 84 at Coffman Nursing Home in Hagerstown.

"Harry was a very gentle man who was always more interested in kids having something worthwhile to do, more so than just sports," said Joe Bachtell, who got involved with Bottorf and the growing Little League in 1952.

The first league Bottorf helped organize in Hagerstown played its first year at the Bester Elementary School field near Rose Hill Cemetery, Bachtell said. It became National Little League.

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American Little League came along in 1950 and was followed by Federal Little League in 1952 or 1953, Bachtell said.

"Each league had four teams," Bachtell said. "It grew so fast because there were so many boys who wanted to sign up."

Bachtell said Bottorf took him under his wing in 1952, when he returned to Hagerstown after completing his military service.

"I was in it for 35 years myself, but when I got out Harry had been out of it for a long time," Bachtell said.

Bottorf may not be familiar to some of today's Little League officials, but his legacy is intact.

"Harry will always be remembered for starting Little League in Hagerstown," Bachtell said.

Jay Stouffer said he worked with Bottorf in scouting and at the Maugansville Ruritan Club for many years, but only became aware of his Little League background after he'd known him a while.

Stouffer, senior league advisor on the District I Little League staff, said Bottorf's contributions to Little League will long be remembered.

"It was the youth that mattered to Harry," Stouffer said.

Funeral services are Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Rest Haven Chapel. Burial will follow.

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