(PHOTO: Ralph Branca on Opening Day for Little League in 1959. Special guests included MLB Commissioner Ford Frick, Brooklyn Dodger Ralph Branca, and Rye resident Wally Signer (who pitched for the Chicago Cubs in the 1940s). Mayor Robert P. Hughes threw the opening pitch in the first game.)
***Be sure to catch tonight's program on Rye Sports History and don't forget to Rye Little League Parade this Saturday starting at 11:30am by the Rye train station.**
Little League in Rye started in 1957, though baseball had been played since the early 1900’s. By 1959, all the various leagues were united under the official Little League charter and a great Rye tradition was started.
As part of this tradition, an old-fashioned “Opening Day” Parade is held every year (since the first one in 1958). The various teams march proudly through downtown Rye in their uniforms to Disbrow Park where the Little League games are usually played. The players and their families are treated to hot dogs and drinks.
From the beginning, Rye was producing All-Star tournament teams. The 1960 All-Star team included Dino Garr, better known for his football coaching prowess. Former Rye players have gone on to play on the United States National Team and been drafted in to the Major Leagues.
In 1975, one of the original teams, the Pioneers went 14-0 to become only the second team in Rye Little League history to go undefeated. Of course, they were helped by having Rich and BJ Surhoff on their team. Rich Surhoff went on to pitch for the Texas Rangers and the Philadelphia Phillies. BJ Surhoff went onto play at University of North Carolina and the 1984 US Olympic team which won the Gold Medal. In 1985, he was the #1 overall draft pick for Major League Baseball when he was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers. He went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles and played in the 1999 Baseball All-Star Game.
More recently, Eric Junge pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and Sean McNally played for the Cleveland Indians organization, and is currently the coach of Duke University Baseball, where he played and was an Academic All-American.