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Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001

Book Bites

PLAY BALL! The Story of Little League Baseball, by Lance and Robin Van Auken. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001, 243 pp., $35 (cloth)

From its humble beginnings in 1939 as a three-team league in a small Pennsylvania town, Little League Baseball has grown into the largest organized children's sports program in the world. "Play Ball!" tells the fascinating story of Little League's rapid growth after World War II and its struggle to adapt to changing times.

Until the mid-'60s, nearly every Little League World Series championship was won by an American team, but in 1967 Japan ushered in a new era of Asian dominance when its West Tokyo team took the title. The next challenge to the status quo came in the 1970s, when lawsuits were filed to force the league to accept girls into its teams, resulting in a revision of league rules and the development of softball programs.

With full access to the archives of Little League Baseball, Incorporated, the authors of "Play Ball" have created a comprehensive and entertaining history of an American institution that will appeal to anyone interested in baseball.

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