The Little League Softball® World Series (LLSWS) has not always been the modern-day spectacle that now takes place in Greenville, North Carolina. The largest youth softball tournament in the world came from humble beginnings, with Little League® originally launching a softball pilot program in 1974 to gauge interest from local leagues across the country.
As it turns out, the young women of America were eager to get out and experience the electric allure of Little League Softball, with more than 50,000 girls hitting the fields across 460 Little Leagues.
Enthused by the abundance of interest, Little League extended the softball program, allowing young female athletes to continue creating core memories at the state and region levels. The mid-season upgrade led to the formation of the first-ever LLSWS in 1974 and left only three months for Little League to plan the historic tournament.
Thankfully, the hardworking volunteers of Little League brought everything together in the nick of time. Once the region winners were declared, it was decided that four American teams would compete and forge lasting friendships on the softball field of Northwest Park in Freeport, Long Island.
Regardless of only having four teams, the inaugural LLSWS brought together Little Leaguers® from every corner of the country. The East Region’s home-field advantage was on full display with Half Hollow Hills LL from Dix Hills, New York, traveling just 30 minutes to Northwest Park. Kirkland LL from Washington made the furthest trek, representing the West Region while placing second in the tournament. North Riverdale LL in Dayton, Ohio, wore Central Region uniforms while Wellswood LL from Tampa, Florida, represented the South Region, taking home the first-ever Little League Softball World Series championship after defeating Kirkland LL, 4-1, while sporting their iconic orange uniform.
Despite poor weather conditions throughout the tournament, the thrilling championship game took place in front of 1,400 fans, propelling Little League Softball onto the national sports scene. The players wearing illuminating orange South Region uniforms shone brightly through the cloudy overcast and would go on to blaze a trail for future generations of Girls with Game.
Today, the orange from the original South Region uniform has partnered with purple to form the color scheme that is now the focal point of Little League International’s Girls with Game initiative. Honoring the vital contributions all female athletes, coaches, and volunteers have made to Little League over the years, the Girls with Game initiative celebrates and inspires young girls and women participating at every level of Little League Baseball and Softball.
As the world gets ready for the start of the 2022 LLSWS in Greenville, teams competing in the Orange Bracket will continue to pay homage to the uniforms of the first-ever champions from Wellswood Little League.
The 12 teams in Greenville are a part of a momentous LLSWS that features the largest pool of teams ever, with the tournament recently expanding to give eight US and four international teams the opportunity to represent their community on the biggest stage in youth softball.
What started as a four-team American tournament in the 1970s has now transformed into an international extravaganza. Little League will continue to celebrate the women of the first LLSWS who inspire Girls with Game everywhere to experience the enthusiasm, passion, and friendship at work on Little League Softball fields around the world. Today, the history of the Little League Softball is on full display within the World of Little League Museum in Williamsport, where visitors can learn about the Girls with Game that have set the foundation for the future.
To learn more about the Little League Girls with Game Initiative, visit LittleLeague.org/GirlsWithGame
NOTE: As the world gears up to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Little League Baseball® World Series (LLBWS) in August 2022, Little League® International will feature content such as this in a series of franchises that highlights some of the key moments, memories, and people that have made the LLBWS one of the most iconic sporting events in the world. For more information, visit LittleLeague.org/75.