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  • Writer's pictureA'Don Allen

Elmira Little League: Back to the Future

As May hits, cities across the country will have a tradition that is second to none in the spring, Little League Baseball! There are over 27, 000 Little League teams in over 5,000 leagues in the United States, including in Elmira, NY. Little League Baseball has been in Elmira since the early 1960’s. There used to be 2 Little League’s in the city of Elmira, Mark Twain which was located on the Southside of Elmira & Huck Finn which was located on the Eastside of Elmira. Then in 2014, the 2 leagues decided to merge. Terry Greene, current President of Elmira Little League said, “The merger became finalized in 2016, forming Elmira Little League. We wanted to name the league after the city we live and play in. Our league motto is “one city, one league”. Greene, who has been the

President for the past 5 years, oversaw the merger, but also began to see a vision.

Normally, each team in Elmira Little League is named after a Major League Baseball team. But Greene was thinking about something different. “For a couple of years, I had been talking to the board members about having our kids wear the hat and shirts of the Negro league teams to honor them. I remember as a kid listening to my grandfather Bill Bell talk about the Negro league & some of the talent in the league that was better than players in the all-white major league during his younger day before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the MLB in 1947. In 2019, I found out that in 2020 it would be the 100th anniversary of the Negro league and I told my board about it and

I told them, 2020 is the perfect time to honor the memory of the Negro league and my board was all for it.”

In 2019, Greene, began to make his vision become a reality. “In the winter of 2019 I had spoken to Dan Sowers, co-owner of Pastrick’s Screen Printing in Elmira Heights about my vision. That is where we order all our uniforms and trophies from. He told me, he couldn’t replicate the hats because he didn’t have the rights to make them so, he gave me the number of OC Sports,” said Greene. “I received a call from Brad Reagan, and I talked to him about what I wanted to do and if he could point me in the right direction. He loved the idea and he told me he would have to talk to MLB to see if they would give them the rights to make the hats. I had to write a proposal letter to MLB executives about my idea and Brad presented it to them in a meeting. Brad called me after the meeting and told me, the MLB executives loved the idea and they granted OC Sports special permission to make the hats for Elmira Little League only. The MLB executives told Brad; Elmira Little League is the only youth baseball organization to present them with this request in the entire country.”

In 2020, Elmira had a shortened and delayed season due to Covid-19 restrictions. And while 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, Greene wanted to make sure the recognition would be used in a more traditional year. But for Greene, this is a dream come true. “I wish we could’ve done this last year on the 100th anniversary but Covid put a halt to our season last year before we got started. So, 2021 is the actual 101st anniversary of the Negro league but better late than never. If my grandfather was alive, he’d be proud to see the youth of Elmira Little League wearing hats and shirts of teams that had most players who never made it to the major leagues, not because of their talent but simply because of the color of their skin. I’m so proud of what myself and my board have done for the youth of Elmira Little League and the city of Elmira. I believe with my vision and the help of others; we have put the city of Elmira on the baseball map.”

With the temperature of the nation rising with civil unrest in the aftermath of last summer’s riots and protests, I asked Terry if he had any trepidation on unveiling this at this moment in history, and it was the furthest thing from his mind. “Honestly, no I’m not concerned about any backlash from anyone. My mom, may she rest in peace, raised me to stand on my feet and be proud of my race and if I believe in something, give it everything I have to make it come to fruition and I did just that. To me, having the youth of Elmira Little League wearing these uniforms is not a race issue, it’s a baseball history issue. The Negro League will forever be a part of MLB history in my mind,” Greene said.

History is going to look incredibly good on young baseball players in Elmira this summer! The Elmira Little Season will begin On Saturday May 1st.


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