The Spirit of Little League
ESPN’s series of documentaries 30 for 30 tackled the 30 biggest stories in sports since ESPN’s launch in 1979, and many acclaimed filmmakers took the helm. The ESPN Films brand have since spun off to further sports docs. While I have not been able to catch all of them I have seen many and the series of films has been even more fascinating and riveting than many anticipated (Note: many of these films now stream on Netflix).
Little Big Men,the tale of the Kirkland, Washington team that captured the 1982 Little League World Series title, originally aired, interestingly enough, after this 2011 tournament’s completion; which made sense since most of the film dealt with their lives after the championship was claimed, and how the sociopolitical climate was ripe for these kids to be put on a pedestal, which made them heroes and symbols to be looked up to, and then taken down.
As is typically the case, there are mixed emotions in this film. All the players loved the experience and were still glad to have won in spite of the unforeseeable hoopla that followed them.
They also drove home the point that they played, trained and strove for the title because they wanted it and no one forced it upon them, which in this day and age is a legitimate concern.
The Little League World Series is a great event, having been there several times, it seems that all the players take it as a great experience regardless of outcome. However, the sentiments of the Washington players do bear repeating as the notion of enjoyment of the game being paramount is one that needs to be cultivated and should not be taken for granted. Just as players and parents need to learn and practice sportsmanship, so are constant reminders needed about the joys of baseball.
Here are a list of some films that vary in their quality, but all remind us why the game is great and will bide the time between now and next year’s Little League World Series:
The true story of the 1957 Monterrey team that won it all.
The Bad News Bears Go to Japan
Both versions of the tale need acknowledging, so I figured I’d highlight the end of the trilogy.
The Bad News Bears (2005)
It’s one of those remakes that make you scratch your head…until you see it. My apologies again, Billy Bob.
It’s only about baseball, and sports in a roundabout way, it’s really about nuclear disarmament and a movement; but it starts and ends on the diamond with one Little Leaguer and is one of the best examples of the power of sport.
This is a film that was delayed and limited in many ways. Little League even assisted in the production, but I believe it began filming in an age when age fraud was largely fiction. Then the Almonte scandal broke. The film means well but is really a bad and misguided cautionary tale that does bad mentioning.
Small Ball: A Little League Story
This is a PBS documentary about a team from Aptos, CA that made the 2002 World Series that is a very balanced look at the process.