One year ago the Jackie Robinson West Little League team was getting ready to capture the hearts of both Chicago and the nation at large.
The celebration for the U.S. champions included a White House visit, a parade through Chicago and on-field honors from the Cubs and White Sox.
Those celebrations last summer seem like a long time ago now. Little League International stripped JRW of its championship in February after learning that team officials had knowingly fielded players from outside their residential boundaries.
Honors for the first all-black team to win the U.S. title were supposed to continue into this baseball season. Now they may not.
The White Sox — who donated $20,000 to Jackie Robinson West and gave each player $100 in school supplies and a backpack – have tabled a plan to unveil a special plaque at U.S. Cellular Field in honor of the Little Leaguers.
White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said via email Tuesday the unveiling will be tabled “until we have more information and the processes worked themselves out.” The club originally planned to unveil the plaque at the stadium on an unspecified date during the 2015 baseball season.
Lawyers for Jackie Robinson West filed a lawsuit against Little League’s governing body three weeks ago, questioning whether the team was unfairly singled out and petitioning the league to turn over all the information used to strip it of its title.
Little League had previously disbanded the district Jackie Robinson West competed in, and the team later withdrew from Little League and joined the Cal Ripken Division of the Babe Ruth League.
Reifert said the White Sox may still choose to honor Jackie Robinson West, regardless of how the process plays out.
“We may choose to do something either way,” he said, “but we want to wait and see how all of this works its way out. A great many of the kids are playing in our ACE program, so they remain important parts of our organization.”
The Amateur City Elite program is a White Sox initiative to support underprivileged, inner-city kids who want quality baseball instruction.
White Sox president Ken Williams said in February that he still considers Jackie Robinson West champions, both because of how they played on the field and the way they conducted themselves off of it.