CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed today “Jackie Robinson West Little League Champions Day” in honor of the baseball team from Chicago’s South Side that came within one game of the Little League World Series. After ousting teams from Wisconsin, Kentucky and Ohio, they advanced to the Great Lakes Regional Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind., but fell short in the championship game against Michigan’s Gross Pointe Woods-Shores.
“Number 42 - Jackie Robinson - would have been so proud of this unheralded team, true underdogs who showed the same grit and grace Jackie showed as a player,” Governor Quinn said. “Jackie Robinson once said ‘Life is not a spectator sport.’ These players, their coaches and their parents worked hard and made sacrifices to achieve excellence.”
Thanks to a combination of teamwork, speed and power, they cruised through the Illinois play-offs by scoring 65 runs in six games. Then, in the five-game Great Lakes Regional Tournament, they batted .444, crossing the plate 59 times.
Earlier in the season at a game in Beardstown, Ill., the Jackie Robinson West players’ performance and demeanor impressed local residents. The team has since been invited to return to Beardstown and ride a float in their annual fall parade.
In his Proclamation, the Governor said, “…the longevity of the Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball team is a tribute to all of the parents, coaches, sponsors and fans who are committed to ensuring that young people develop the skills and work ethic necessary for becoming productive, successful adults.”
In 1983, Jackie Robinson West won the Regional Championship, a feat accomplished by only two Chicago-area teams since (Lemont in 2006 and South Holland in 1992).
The Jackie Robinson West Little League team was founded in 1971 - the year before Jackie Robinson died - by educator Joseph H. Haley, whose goal was to provide young people with wholesome, healthy recreation through baseball. The team’s mission is to bring children into a structured program environment supported by adult volunteers where values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline are emphasized.