1954 – The Founding Season
Little League was incorporated in 1939 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. In 1954 Marvin Boutin spearheaded the effort to bring Little League to Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Park. He brought in needed sponsorship money from the Grosse Pointe Optimist Club, which offered to sponsor both leagues. Once the applications for franchises were obtained, Marvin formed a committee and put his energy entirely into the Woods franchise.
According to the “minutes”, 52 men and 1 lady were present at the first official organizational meeting on February 9, 1954. Temporary officers were elected and the following committees, Sponsors, Constitution and by-laws, programs, grounds, equipment, and public relations. A huge informational rally was held February 22, 1954 at Parcells School where 1100 boys and parents attended. The master of ceremonies was the former Detroit Tigers announcer Ty Tyson; also present as speaker was baseball Hall of Famer, Charlie Gehringer.
The second official Grosse Pointe Woods Little League meeting took place March 2, 1954. An eleven member Board of Governors was elected which in turn elected its officers:
President: Marvin Boutin
Vice President: Roger Judkins
Secretary: Bruce Stewart
Treasurer: Howard Stoneback
Board of Governors: Don Waite, Don Jennings, Harol Love, John LeBlond, William Clayton, Don Coats, H.S. Shannon
A playing site was provided by the City of Grosse Pointe Woods at the Mack-park later named the “Alois A. Ghesquiere Memorial Park” by the City Council March 15, 1954. The city provided the necessary clearing of land, drainage, field layout of the backstop and field maintenance. The City Council appropriated $1000.00 as an interim measure to get construction of the diamond underway and ready for opening day May 30, 1954.
It was decided to include the village of Grosse Pointe Shores in the Franchise application because of their interest yet inability to support their own league due to size. The Shores provided a diamond at the Vernier Rd. site. The league was known at Grosse Pointe Woods Little League until the Fall of 1956 when the Shores name was added.
Nearly 300 boys signed up, ages 8-12. Four major league teams were in the American League, eight Minor League teams were in the International, and several weeks after the season began and additional league known as the Pacific was formed with four Minor League teams. There were not enough playing fields, sponsors or coaching staff to have additional teams. Games were played at Ghesquiere and Vernier. Tryout and practices were held at Parcels, Monteith and Mason.
Opening Day was on Memorial Weekend May 30, 1954 with an elaborate parade of: Cowboys, Cowgirls, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, convertibles with civic notables and celebrities such as Ted Lindsay (Captain of the Red Wings). Hot dogs and refreshments ran out in less than two hours. The very first game saw Tigers Pitcher Dave Lowery and battery mate Jerry Phillips get the win 5 to 1 over the Red Sox.
The first season had its low points. There was a manager forced to step down, an umpire not allowed to perform Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League games because of the use of profanities, protest letters to Little League Headquarters, a long regular season (ending August 1, 1954), and ultimately controversy regarding the Co-Championship.
A high point was when Red Sox 12 year old Lars Anderson pitched a perfect game striking out 13 batters in an 8 to 0 win over the Yankees. Also at the end of the season the Detroit Tigers invited each team of 15 players and 3 adults to a game at Briggs Stadium. However the highest point was undoubtedly when a group of selfless men took on the daunting tasks of starting this league from scratch without a playing site, equipment or funding and somehow procured all these needs in such a short time. This became the seeds for a great future interest and growth that would lead to all the success through the years.
We salute all the people involved in starting this great league.