By Lynne Phillips
Editor’s note: This the second part of a series of stories relating to the history of Little League in New London.
Morgan Luedy contributed to these stories.
Local resident Mike Miller remembers well when Little League came to the Village of New London in 1956.
“My dad and some other guys decided they wanted to have ‘real baseball’ in New London,” he said. “They didn’t want just a bunch of guys getting together to play ball. They wanted to have uniforms, sponsors and rules and the chance to go on to play in tournaments and so forth.
“Little League was franchising at that time,” Miller recalled, “and other nearby towns had it so they got together early in the year and said baseball was going to happen.
“In 1956 tryouts were held and coaches picked teams.” Miller noted there were some kids who for one reason or another were not eligible to play but were placed on teams in other potions. “That way they could practice and go to the games.
“That first year there was no farm team as such,” he said. “But the next year after we had that first great season of Little League and all of the parents saw what it was they were excited. That is when it was decided to have a farm team.
“It was 1957 when the farm team started,” he related. “Then some of the kids who were on the same team with me went on to what was called either pony league or the senior Little League. It was then that kids were playing on baseball diamonds. They were playing ‘real ball’. We were playing with umpires and rules and everything.” He added, “It was a great opportunity for a small town to have an organized baseball program.
“You gotta remember what it took,” he said. “It took umpires, it took coaches, moms to wash the uniforms, sponsors and people to get together to raise money for the uniforms, baseballs and bases and so forth.”
Drawing on a sheet of paper, Miller explained where the games were played. “Where the tractor pull over the annual Labor Day Festival is held is where the football field was back then. There was also a half mile track where horses were raced and nearby was where the baseball diamond was located.
“They made the baseball diamond work,” he shared. “It actually went out onto the football field then. What they had to do was to make a fence that could be taken down so they could play football in the fall,” Miller explained. “When the big guys, those playing softball got there they would take the fence and move it.
“When my dad died,” he said, “mom donated money and the Glenn Miller Field was completed with a box, dugouts and grass. They just finished it,” he added.
Officers of the 1956 fledgling league included Forest Motter, Ike Sutherland, Rhea Miller, Dr. Vosatka, Henry
Parnell, O. K. Emch and Bart Rhoads.
Coaches that first year were Bud French, Chuck Perkins, Bill Heinrich, Mel Stoner, Ed Stover, Harold Cook, Leonard Perkins, Roy Robinson, Arnold Simecek, Glen Miller, Al Walters, Dick Eastman and Blain Hall.
“Al Walters also organized a traveling team in those early years,” Miller recalled.
Local journalist Henry Parnell put out a publication called “The Booster”, Miller said. “It had all of the schedules and other information.”
Miller commented Parnell was in a wheelchair kind of like Terry’s (Terry Wilson). “He was a great guy and a huge supporter of the Little League.” He added, “He was a little intimidating for a person of my age at that time,” he said with a smile.
He (Parnell) wrote a lot of the early articles about the Little League for the local papers. He died in the 1963 nursing home fire out on route 250.
A number of local businesses have sponsored teams every year since the beginning, according to Miller. “Miller Brothers Grocery Store was one of of them and I am pretty proud of that,” he commented.
‘The kids were the ones who got to play,” he said, “but there were so many people who pitched in and did the work it took to have the league. They are the ones who got the money together for uniforms and equipment, kept score, did field maintenance and all the other jobs.“Little League was a great conglomeration of all the people here in town,” he said. “Pretty much everyone got involved in one way or another and it has been a good thing for our town.”