Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball2023-11-29T14:10:05-05:00

Play Ball! The Story of Little League® Baseball

Book Celebrates Baseball History

Little League® Baseball observed its diamond anniversary, and fans of the sport and the World Series celebrated with an updated book, Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball by Lance and Robin Van Auken, and available through The Omnibus Publishing company, and a one-hour, original documentary film, Little League®: A History.

Play Ball!, the best-selling history of Little League and the World Series by Lance and Robin Van Auken (Penn State University Press), has been updated and is available as an ebook. The new book is filled with noteworthy visitors and interesting facts.

Updated content includes a new chapter on author John Grisham’s movie, “Mickey,” the Danny Almonte scandal, Tee Ball on the South Lawn, pitch counts and arm injuries, child protection policies, ESPN, and the new $4 million World of Little League Museum.

Play Ball! The Story of Little League® Baseball  is a delightful walk down the storied history of Little League Baseball. For those of us who played the dreams of your youth, it brings back mighty memories. For those of us reluctant adults who still dream, it’s a wonderful reminder of what might have been.”              —John Grisham

About Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball

Play Ball! The Story of Little League® Baseball is the remarkable story of Little League® Baseball, from the first diamond in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to the playing fields of the world.

On any given spring evening, 300,000 children around the world can be found on the dusty mounds and grassy fields of a Little League field. With more than three million people playing or volunteering in Little League games every year, Little League is the institutional rite of passage into the quintessential American pastime.

Play Ball! charts Little League’s history from the earliest days and shows how, in many respects, its history parallels America’s history: isolation in the beginning; rapid expansion; a civil war of sorts, followed by reconstruction; struggles over civil rights and gender equity; and foreign entanglements. A microcosm of American society, Little League reflects and is affected by, cultural, political, and historical trends.

Today, Little League is played on 12,000 fields in every U.S. state and in more than 80 countries on six continents. Little League also sanctions play in softball, tee ball, and the Challenger Division for disabled children. The Little League® Baseball World Series played annually in Williamsport, is watched by crowds of 40,000 each year in person, and by more than ten million on ABC’s ESPN.

The authors were given full access to the Little League® Baseball archives and have created a comprehensive history. In addition to a foreword by Pulitzer-Prize winner Dave Barry, Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball contains appendixes including winners of all Little League® Baseball and Softball World Series, year-by-year history of Little League, countries in Little League, and lists of some of the famous people who played the game as children, including Kevin Costner, Bruce Springsteen, and George W. Bush.

“Play Ball!” will interest parents, former players, and coaches, fans of Little League® Baseball, general baseball enthusiasts, and anyone who has ever picked up a ball and bat.

Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball: Authors

Lance Van Auken retired from Little League after three decades in 2021. A former Vice President of the organization, he oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Little League® Baseball museum, World of Little League, a 22,000-square foot newly renovated facility dedicated to preserving the history of the world’s largest organized youth sports program, and to providing a key educational asset to the children and families of Central Pennsylvania and visitors from around the world.

Robin Van Auken is an author, an educator, and a registered professional archaeologist. She owns and operates Hands-on Heritage, a cultural heritage and communication organization. She has authored and co-authored ten books of local and regional history, including Play Ball! The Story of Little League® Baseball with her husband, Lance Van Auken.

Lance Van Auken and John Grisham at the Little League Baseball World Series stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Lance Van Auken, left, discuss the filming of “Mickey” at the Little League World Series complex with screenwriter and best-selling author John Grisham.

Have you read Play Ball! The Story of Little League® Baseball?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Contact us with questions or suggestions.

Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball” by Lance and Robin Van Auken, is available through The Omnibus Publishing company.

Little League was my first, and best, exposure to organized sports. I learned a lot: what it feels like to have to perform under pressure; how to be part of, and have obligations to, a team; how to win; and how to lose. (We Indians got pretty good at losing.) I saw that hard competition could bring players on both teams closer together; I also saw that the desire to win, if uncontrolled, could turn some people—adults as well as kids— into jerks. But most of my memories of Little League are positive. And I still like to play first base. —Dave Barry

About ‘Little League®: A History’

Have you seen it?

Little League®: A History is a one-hour film, narrated by legendary baseball broadcaster Vin Scully. The WVIA Original Documentary chronicles and celebrates Little League’s 75-year contribution to American culture and to the quality of life for millions more around the world today. Public Broadcast Service television stations throughout the United States are broadcasting the documentary.

According to WVIA Public Media President, CEO and Executive Producer Tom Currá, Little League’s 75-year history has brought families, neighbors, and whole communities together. “Now through the efforts of our Emmy® award-winning team, ‘Little League: A History’ goes deep past the fences of your neighborhood ballpark into the American institution that is Little League,” Currá, said. On the web at Little League®: A History.

Interviewees include:

  •  President George W. Bush, the only President to have played Little League
  •  NASA Space Shuttle Commander Story Musgrave
  •  James Gehron, nephew of Little League founder Carl Stotz and one of the nephews for whom Stotz invented Little League in 1939
  •  Karen Stotz Myers and Monya Lee Stotz Adkins, Carl Stotz’s daughters
  • Lance Van Auken, author of Play Ball! The Story of Little League® Baseball
  •  Former Los Angeles Dodger Owner Peter O’Malley
  • Current Cincinnati Reds star and 1998 LLBWS participant Todd Frazier
  • Allan “Bud” Selig, Major League Baseball Commissioner
  • Carolyn King, whose 1973 lawsuit against Little League contributed to the league’s landmark policy reversal of prohibiting girls from playing Little League Baseball
  • Kathryn “Tubby” Johnston Massar (the first girl to play Little League)
  • And three surviving members of the original Little League team formed in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1939
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