When the Jackie Robinson West Little League season begins May 18, it will be the beginning of what will be a special year for the league. This season, the league will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1983 11-12 year old all-star team that reache
“That was a very special team,” says Jackie Robinson West president Bill Haley. “They were a special team not only because of they way they played on the field, but also because of the way they conducted themselves as young gentlemen off the field.” The late Joseph Haley, who founded the league, always had a special fondness for the 1983 team, “He loved every team we’ve ever had, but that 1983 team was really special to him,” Joseph Haley’s widow, Ann Haley said.
“I remember that year because me and Joe had planned a special vacation, but we had to postpone it because we couldn’t miss going to Williamsport.” The road to Williamsport didn’t begin well that year for Jackie Robinson West. They dropped their first game of the District tournament, but then reeled off 12 consecutive wins to reach the World Series. Ironically, 1983 was the first year of double elimination in Little League play.
In previous years that one loss would have delimited them. There were many memorable games for Jackie Robinson West on their way to the World Series. There was the opening game of the state tournament when McGlother Irvin hit a two-run homer to defeat Bradley- Bourbonnais American. The championship game against Wabash of Indiana in the Central Region tournament also was one to remember. Jackie Robinson West earned the trip to Williamsport by scoring seven runs in the top of ninth.
That game almost didn’t reach the ninth inning. Wabash appeared to be on their way to a win, but Jackie Robinson West centerfielder Roynal Coleman threw out the potential gamewinning run at the plate. In 1984, Jackie Robinson West nearly made a return trip to Williamsport, but came up one game short, falling to Wausau, Wis.
In the championship game of the Central Region. The 1983 team will be recognized on Aug. 2 when the Illinois State tournament is held at Jackie Robinson Park. The 1983 members of the team were Keith Burton, Roynal Coleman, Steve Dotts, George Fletcher, Barry Freeman, LaShawn Hammock, McGlother Irvin, Jeffrey Jackson, Sam Johnson, Anton Kimmerman, and James Lofton. Norrice Quarles, Brian Street and Reginald Williams. The coaches of the team were Tom Hammock and the late Joseph Haley.
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