|Wednesday, August 15
Lundy there from the beginning
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Looking through a stack of old newspaper clippings and promotional materials, John W. "Jack" Lundy reflects on all he's seen in his long association with Little League baseball.
Lundy remembers the early games, before the incorporation of Little League. He remembers the first Mexican teams to reach the series. He remembers Taiwan's many titles and Kirkland, Wash.'s 6-0 victory over Taiwan in 1982. He remembers Shippensburg Little League in 1990, the last Pennsylvania team to make the championship game.
"I guess I've just about seen it all," said Lundy, who retired as a league board member last year.
It's no exaggeration -- the 92-year-old Lundy really has seen it all. He took his family to see the very first Little League game on June 6, 1939, when Lundy Lumber defeated Lycoming Dairy 23-8. Lundy Lumber would go on to win the regular season with a 9-7 record, half a game ahead of Lycoming Dairy and one game ahead of Jumbo Pretzel, but Lycoming Dairy came back to win the championship game.
Still a team sponsor, Lundy saw the league expand, first across Pennsylvania, then outside the state, then to the first international teams. He was there in 1947 for the first Little League World Series, and has attended every series since. And he'll be there for this year's series, which begins Friday.
"He's the only living person who's been involved in Little League directly since the beginning," said Lance Van Auken, spokesman for Little League Baseball Inc. "There are people who are around now that were involved at the founding of Little League, like the kids who played in that first season, but Jack is the only one who stayed involved in Little League all these years."
Little League founder Carl Stotz was a Lundy Lumber employee when he founded the league. His initial search for businesses to sponsor teams came up dry - more than 60 refusals. Finally, he went to his boss.
"At first he was always asking if he could leave work early to play baseball," Lundy said. "When he came to us about sponsoring a team, you could tell he didn't really want to ask. He didn't want to seem like he was taking advantage of our friendship. But I gave him the $30. I did it for the kids."
And he kept doing it. Lundy Lumber continued to sponsor teams each year until Little League received corporate sponsorship, eliminating the need for team sponsors. After that, Lundy continued to stay involved through his close friendships with Stotz and with Peter McGovern, chairman of the Little League board.
Van Auken said Lundy's friendship with both men was invaluable in researching "Play Ball: The Story of Little League Baseball," a book written by Van Auken and his wife, Robin Van Auken.
"One of the neatest things we got from Jack was a comparison between Carl Stotz and Peter McGovern and what that whole split was really about - that it came down to a personality conflict between the two," Van Auken said. "Jack was one of the very few people in Williamsport who remained friends with Carl and with Peter right up until the end of both of them, which was a really delicate juggling act. There still are strong emotions in Williamsport over that."
In 1981, Lundy was asked to serve on Little League's board of directors, a position he held until his resignation last year. Lundy still goes to work twice a week (Lundy Lumber is now Lundy Construction), but says physically he can no longer travel to out-of-town Little League meetings.
"I tried to resign three times, but they kept electing me," Lundy said. "Finally last year, when the Little League Congress was up in Ottawa (Canada), I said, 'I can't make it up there. I'm just no use anymore.'
"I've still got my kook about me - at least I think I do," he says with a mischievous grin. "But my body isn't up to it."
So when Lundy comes to the series this year, for the first time he'll come not as a sponsor or a board member, but as a simple spectator.
"Not that we'll treat him any different," Van Auken said. "I think he's probably earned some consideration."
And some recognition. When Little League celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1989, Lundy was among those invited to the White House by then-President George Bush and was singled out for commendation in the president's speech. In 1996, Little League named its new conference center after Lundy.