During the 1970’s, a famous musical group, the sons of a bricklayer, became all the rage across the United States. This family hailed from Gary, Indiana, and would soon take their turn as the latest act that would continue making Motown Records a powerhouse in the industry. However, during the summer of 1971, another group of young men from Gary, Indiana made the nation take notice. The Little League All-Star team from Gary would earn the distinction of becoming the first team made up of all African-Americans to win the United States Little League championship. While the Jackson 5 had longer lasting power, the Little League All-Stars from Gary, Indiana made their indelible mark on youth baseball history.
The dream of a Little League World Series title would fall short however, as the team from Taiwan would win yet another crown, something that had become habit. The Gary, Indiana boys gave it their best effort, but it just wasn’t enough. These young men were led by a star pitcher and hitter, one that would later earn Little League Hall of Fame honors as an adult, registering only five official at-bats during his team’s visit to Williamsport, Pennsylvania during the summer of 1971. Why only five? Well, each of those official at-bats ended in the 12-year-old hitter circling the bases, celebrating a home run. Word got around to the rest of the coaches in the tournament that this young man was the real deal, and hit for tremendous power.
Opposing coaches began intentionally walking the star hurler, who had also tossed a complete game shutout to help his team advance all the way to the Little League World Series championship game. During the opening frame of that title game, the Gary star player blasted a three-run shot to give his team a 3-0 lead, one in which they would hold until a two-run error allowed Taiwan to tie the game at three apiece. The young man continued to be walked after his opening salvo. The game went well past the normal six-inning regulation limit, finishing up with a 10-run 12-inning marathon, and Taiwan winning the 1971 Little League World Series. It didn’t matter to the millions of eyes that had watched the journey of the Gary, Indiana All-Stars that historic season, and more success would come for that young man with only five at-bats. Who was he? Future eight-year big league veteran, former Pittsburgh Pirates and current Seattle Mariners skipper, Lloyd McClendon.