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Public Papers - 1989 - October

Remarks Congratulating the Trumbull Nationals on Winning the Little League World Championship

1989-10-10

Welcome to the White House. First, to our distinguished Members of Congress here -- Congressman Shays and Congressmen Kennelly, Rowland, Morrison -- thank you all for coming, and to Mrs. Vance and Dr. Hale and Mr. Talbott, Mr. DelVecchio, Coach Galla, and whoever is left out there -- [laughter] -- Little League players and fellow fans. And a special hello to our new Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, my old friend Wilmer ``Vinegar Bend'' Mizell, former great pitcher in the major leagues. Stand up now, Vinegar, so they can see you. Welcome. And it's a pleasure to welcome all of you here to the Rose Garden.

The World Series starts this week, and thus it's fitting that this world champion baseball team is here with us today. That team, of course, is Trumbull, Connecticut, the 1989 Little League world champions, whose amazing triumph propelled these kids headfirst into the sports heart of America.

You know, Casey Stengel once asked of the early 1960's Mets: ``Can anybody here play this game?'' [Laughter] Well, sadly for his then helpless, hapless team, almost no one could. Vinegar Bend, naturally, was a notable exception. But, well, in 1989 Trumbull emphatically could, and did, play this game. And in this special year for the Little League, the 50th anniversary of the world's largest organized youth sports program, your special team brought the title back -- right back to where the Little League began. And it was special because of self-discipline and hard work, helping Trumbull become the first U.S. team in 6 years -- 6 years -- to win the Little League World Series. And its feeling of sportsmanship: kids scraping and competing and then shaking hands after the final out.

This Trumbull team was special because it kept its eye on the ball -- sort of like when one of my grandkids, George, told me he wants to be a baseball player when he grows up. I asked him why, and he said, ``Because politicians don't get their pictures on bubble gum cards.'' [Laughter]

Most of all, Trumbull is special because of a feeling of family: fathers and daughters, mother and sons, kids of all ages banding together, evidenced by more than 15,000 people jamming the streets of Trumbull to welcome this gang back home. And they were there, yes, to cheer your triumph, but also your learning the lessons of Little League, lessons like friendship and generosity, like ``Do unto others'' and doing your best, lessons which go beyond balls and strikes and which have made Little League a global institution. This year more than 2/2\ million players in 33 nations played Little League baseball. And they know those lessons, and so do their 750,000 adult volunteers -- and so, if I might add, do past Little Leaguers.

On a personal note, all four of the Bush kids played it. I coached it. And Barbara -- well, back then there were tens of thousands of Texas kids in Little League. And as I've often said, she'd keep score, but there were times when I thought she was car-pooling each and every one of them. [Laughter] So, I think our family can sense your pride, and hope you can sense the pride we feel in you.

Chris Drury, for instance, beating Taiwan to win the championship game. Which is Chris? There he is, modestly in the back row there. Or Dan McGrath, squeezing that final out as 40,000 people roared in disbelief, as did the entire Nation. And where are you, Dan? There he is. Okay. Andy Paul. Where is Andy? Right there. Big guy. I called Cape Canaveral about this guy -- [laughter] -- about the homer he hit against Davenport, Iowa. And they tell me it's somewhere in orbit between Williamsport and Harrisburg. [Laughter] Or Dave Galla, Ken Martin, Cody Lee, Jason Hairston -- I wish I had time to mention all 15 players. And don't worry, I'm not forgetting Assistant Coaches Bob Zullo and Ed Wheeler or the man who led the way. I've heard some people say that Frank Robinson and Roger Craig should be named managers of the year. Well, there should be a recount if Tom Galla is not right up there in contention.

What memories you have given us, and what memories you'll cherish -- of great heart and great plays, or that crowd cheering, ``USA! USA!'' there at Williamsport, and of the spirit which says that nothing is impossible, in Little League or in the bigger fields of life. You know, we lost a man recently who embodied that spirit -- the former president of Yale and then commissioner of baseball. He lived a few miles from where you do. He was a great friend of many of ours, certainly a friend of mine: Bart Giamatti -- poet and scholar, gentle and sensitive. And his life was a metaphor for honesty, and he ennobled public service. He knew and loved the fact that this marks the 50th anniversary of Little League.

But it's also another 50th anniversary, and I'd like to close by noting it as Bart himself did earlier this summer. It concerns, if you will, a hero of mine. And also they come to know his story, I hope, of you Trumbull kids as well. His name was Lou Gehrig. He was a Hall of Fame first baseman in the twenties and thirties. But more than that, he was a good and decent man about whom a teammate said, ``Every day, any day, he just went out and did his job.'' Fifty years ago, Lou Gehrig was stricken by a form of paralysis which now bears his name. And the disease ended Lou's record-consecutive-games-played streak and caused his retirement from baseball. And even so, he told that July 4th, 1939, crowd at Yankee Stadium: ``I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.''

That story has become an American parable. What an example for these kids. And how right that we recall it on the 50th anniversary of his unforgettable farewell. Less known is what Lou Gehrig did after he left the Yankees. Dying, weaker day by day, he could barely move his body, yet he loved and wanted to counsel the kids, the children. And so, he spent much of the last 2 years of his life as parole commissioner for the city of New York. And they called him ``The Iron Horse,'' the ``Pride of the Yankees.'' And certainly, I think we would all agree he was a hero. He showed, like Little League, that what matters is how we conduct ourselves off as well as on the field. You kids here are proof of that. So, let me again congratulate Trumbull, Connecticut: You truly are number one.

And now let me conclude with a presentation. Earlier this summer, the United States Post Office issued a special 50th anniversary stamp to honor Lou Gehrig for his decency, integrity, and bravery, qualities that, as Bart Giamatti showed, are as timeless as today. This inscribed picture of Lou that we have here somewhere -- [laughter] -- commemorates that stamp, and I'd like to give it to Howard Talbott, Director of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, also marking its golden anniversary. Howard, let me just say that I hope this picture will inspire the kids of every age and show how -- by building courage, character -- baseball Little League can belt the grand-slam home run. Tom Galla, as Trumbull coach, please help me in presenting it. And to all of you, thank you so much for coming to the White House to salute this team and to honor a legend.

Note: The President spoke at 1:34 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Morag Vance, first selectman of Trumbull, CT; Creighton Hale, president of the U.S. Little League Foundation; Howard Talbott, director of the Hall of Fame; John DelVecchio, president of Trumbull Little League; and Tom Galla, coach of the Trumbull Nationals.

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