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Chicago Little League Team Stripped Of U.S. Championship


A moment of baseball joy has turned sour. Last year, a Little League team from Chicago made a big impression. Jackie Robinson West lost the league's international World Series, but it won the U.S. championship. Well, today, league officials stripped the team of that championship. The reason - it had players who lived outside the boundaries set for the squad. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: In sports there are incredibly sweet victories and the agony of defeat. Last summer, the city of Chicago was riding high. The Jackie Robinson West Little League team had won the league's national championship, the first all-black squad to do so. And it was a time to celebrate.


PAT QUINN: So on behalf of the people of Illinois, I hereby declare this day to be Jackie Robinson Championship Day.

CORLEY: That day, proclaimed by then governor Pat Quinn, was one of the many celebrations for the team, which learned today it must vacate all of its 2014 title wins. Little League International said Jackie Robinson West violated rules by using players who lived outside the team's boundaries. League president Stephen Keener blamed adults who intentionally falsified a boundary map to claim territory that wasn't theirs. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington agrees this was another say-it-ain't-so baseball moment for Chicago, and especially bad news because the win happened when violence in Chicago dominated the news.

LAURA WASHINGTON: That team's victory changed the equation overnight and gave us a lot of joy and pride.

CORLEY: Jackie Robinson Park, where a big celebration was held for the Little League team, is snow-covered today, but there are a few folks around who want to talk about what happened to the team.

MARCUS EVANS: We're very upset, yeah, we're very upset.

CORLEY: Marcus Evans (ph) lives near the park, as does Quincy Allen (ph). And Allen says he attended most of the Jackie Robinson West games. He says he thinks the residency rules should be changed for young black athletes who want to play baseball.

QUINCY ALLEN: And your parents or whoever are providing you a way to get there to and from practice and to the games, then it shouldn't make a difference where you come from as long as you come with the right attitude.

CORLEY: Lucky Robinson (ph) says he played for Jackie Robinson West from 1987 to '91. He says in his eyes, the kids are still champions.

LUCKY ROBINSON: They done went to Disney World, met the president. They can't take that from them.

CORLEY: Today, President Obama issued a statement, saying he doesn't believe dirty dealing by adults takes anything away from the accomplishments of the players. The team's manager is barred from Little League activity, and Jackie Robinson West is now on probation with tournament privileges suspended. It's the third time a Little League team has been stripped of its championship. The 2014 the national trophy belongs now to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.