Jackie Robinson West stripped of Little League World Series title

ByABC7 Team Coverage WLS logo
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
JRW meets for first time after decision
Jackie Robinson West parents and players met Wednesday night for the first since Little League World Series revoked their national title.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Jackie Robinson West has been stripped of their title in the 2014 Little League World Series. By default, Las Vegas will now be handed the title.

The Jackie Robinson West baseball team that brought the city together this summer is accused of stacking the team with players from the suburbs.


Jackie Robinson West parents and players met Wednesday night for the first since Little League World Series revoked their national title.

"I don't feel right that they took our title away from us, something that we played hard for. And we love the game of baseball," said Jaheim Benton, a JRW player.

"The whole thing's sad, but what's really sad is just to see a man from one of the leagues that we played, just to like, come after us," said Marquis Jackson, a JRW player.

Despite the ruling, parents and the coach said their focus is supporting the boys accomplishments - title or not.

"The boys did what they're supposed to do, everybody did what they're supposed to do. So like I said, I'm still a proud guy, a proud coach," said Darold Butler, head coach.

"I think I'm ready to go back to school tomorrow and keep my head up," said Brandon Green, a JRW player.

Coach Butler did not address any of the allegations specifically, however, he is the only person from the league who has spoken since the decision was made. Bill Haley, the league's director, was not at this meeting.


Little League International officials said it was a "heartbreaking" decision to strip Jackie Robinson West of its national title, but after an extensive review, Little League International president and CEO Stephen Keener says there was no choice.

"As painful as it is, it is a necessary outcome for what we have been able to confirm, the real troubling is that we feel horribly for the kids who are involved in this," Keener said. "To the best of our knowledge they had no knowledge they were doing anything wrong."

Little League officials said it is about the adults who manipulated the boundaries, making players eligible to play on the team. As a result, not only is the title taken away but the team's manager Darold Butler is suspended, Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly is out, and so is the team president and treasurer Anne and Bill Haley.

Little League officials say JRW knowingly expanded its boundaries to include territory that belonged to other leagues in the district without approval from those leagues to get into the 2014 tournament.

"What is troubling here is the leadership of the district signed off, knowing that this was wrong," Keener said.


Jackie Robinson West was the first all-African-American team to win the championship, and some are saying that racism influenced the Little League's decision.

Venisa Green, mother of JRW player Brandon Green, says that there were three investigations, and twice the allegations were unfounded.

"The decision of Little League was not good enough until the powers that be bullied Little League into getting the decision that they ultimately wanted," Venisa Green said.

Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina parish singled out Chris Janes of Evergreen Park for a "witch hunt," with Pfleger indicating he thought the allegations were racially motivated.

"I can't help but wonder the question if the same thing would have been done with another team from another place, another race," said Rev. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina Church.


Questions over residency began back in August when JRW won the title. The first to raise a red flag was Chris Janes, vice president of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association. While not a competing league in District 4, the league does play JRW in tournaments.

"We worked diligently, we found a bunch of records, voter registration, vehicle registration, things of that sort and we submitted the complaint," Janes said.

Chris Janes says he has received death threats. An Evergreen Park police car has been keeping an eye on Janes' neighborhood.

On Wednesday night, a Chicago mother claimed that her son was recruited to play in Evergreen Park's Little League, despite living on Chicago's South Side.


By default, the national Little League title now goes to the Mountain Ridge Little League in Las Vegas.

"It's really sad for JRW kids, I really feel for those children, I'm really happy that little league is enforcing the rules and keeping the integrity of World Series alive," said Kristi Black, former president of the Mountain Ridge Little League.

A player for the Las Vegas team says while he is happy about the title, he is sad for JRW players because all Las Vegas and JRW players became friends during the World Series.


Last summer, the Jackie Robinson Foundation pledged to award a four-year college scholarship to a high school graduate member of the Jackie Robinson West League.

On Wednesday, the Jackie Robinson Foundation stood by that pledge, saying in a written statement: "JRF intends to honor its commitment to award such a scholarship, which was designated for a qualifying, college-bound participant in the Jackie Robinson West league, beginning in the 2015-16 school year."


This is the third time in the 68-year history of Little League baseball that punitive actions have led to vacating wins.

In 1992, there was the disqualification of Zamboanga City Little League in the Philippines.

The team of was stripped of its Little League World Series title after it was revealed the team used ineligible players who did not meet residency requirements.

And in 2001, the Rolando Paulino Little League team from the Bronx in New York was forced to forfeit its third place finish after the star pitcher on that team, Danny Almonte, was found to be two years over the maximum age limit