Tag Archives: Taney Dragons

A Heroes’ Welcome Home for Taney Dragons by the City of Brotherly Love

29 Aug
Thousands of Philadelphia sports fans gathered near the Kimmell Center to welcome home the Taney Dragons  and hear the Philadelphia POPs Orchestra salute to the team for their successful run to the Little League World Series. Photo by Chris Murray.

Thousands of Philadelphia sports fans gathered near the Kimmell Center to welcome home the Taney Dragons and hear the Philadelphia POPs Orchestra salute to the team for their successful run to the Little League World Series. Photo by Chris Murray.

By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

After the Parade down Broad Street, the Taney Dragons were honored by Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park before Wednesday's game against the Washington Nationals. Photo by Webster Riddick.

After the Parade down Broad Street, the Taney Dragons were honored by Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizen’s Bank Park before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Nationals. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –A lot of people who would normally be hard at work in their Center City offices were instead gathered on the streets of Philadelphia in support of the Taney Dragons Little League team as part of a parade honoring the Mid-Atlantic Little League champions Wednesday.

Waving signs that said, “We Love Taney,” “We’re on the Dragon Wagon,” and “Let’s Go Taney,” a crowd of thousands took part in the parade, which also featured performances by the Philly POPS orchestra in front of the Kimmel Center and the Mummers at Broad and Washington.

In the midst of a tumultuous summer on the streets of Philly and around the world, the Dragons, a multi-ethnic team of 12 and 13-year-olds, gave everyone something to smile about during their Little League World Series run in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, said Mayor Michael Nutter.

“We’ve had a number of tragedies this summer just in Philadelphia involving children, very tragic situations, so we mourn all of those losses and it really hurts our heart when bad things have happened to our children,” said Nutter said. “To have a few weeks, a month or so of this kind of incredible joy around children just playing a game, just having a good time, I think it was really exciting for the whole city and people responded.”

Taney Dragons pitcher Mo'ne Davis and her teammates took a victory lap around Citizen's Bank Park.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Taney Dragons pitcher Mo’ne Davis and her teammates took a victory lap around Citizen’s Bank Park. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The Taney Dragons were one of two inner city teams to play in the LLWS, and the first from Philadelphia. They, and the U.S. Champion Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago, became favorites of fans around the country and garnered a lot of media attention in the process.
Taney manager Alex Rice applauded his kids for how they’ve handled it.

“It was an honor to be associated with this team for the past two months,” Rice said. “They’re talented, wonderful, high character, smart, funny wonderful kids. They played terrific baseball.”

Though the Taney Dragons finished third, they received a heroes’ welcome from a grateful hometown on Wednesday in a parade that went from downtown to Franklin D. Roosevelt Park in South Philadelphia.

“The parade was awesome,” said Taney Dragons slugging outfielder Zion Spearman. “I wish we had another one, but this was awesome. I think it was nice seeing all the people. It was fun. It was pretty good because it was, I don’t know, exciting.”

Taney Dragons second baseman Jahli Hendricks looks out into the crowd during the parade down Broad Street. Photo by Chris Murray.

Taney Dragons second baseman Jahli Hendricks looks out into the crowd during the parade down Broad Street. Photo by Chris Murray.

After marching down Broad Street, Mayor Nutter and Second District City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson honored the team with a proclamation and announced plans provide more resources to recreation programs in the city and repair the city’s baseball fields.

Later in the day, the team went to Citizens Bank Park where the Philadelphia Phillies honored them and let entire team threw the ceremonial first pitch. They also got some encouragement from Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who spent time with them in Williamsport.

“This is the epitome of Philadelphia right here,” Howard said during the ceremony. “I felt like a little kid when I was hanging out with these guys. They were full of life and full of energy and just plain fun.”

For the kids, it has been a whirlwind last couple of weeks with games and celebrations. This is especially true for 13-year-old pitcher Mo’ne Davis, who thrilled fans and dazzled with her 70-mile per hour fast ball and became the darling of the Little League World Series.

Davis was the toast of the morning TV talk shows including ABC’s Good Morning and became the first Little Leaguer to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. By the time the parade ended, a visibly-tired Davis talked to reporters about the run through the Little World Series.

“It’s been half and half. I like it sometimes, but most of the time I don’t. I’m looking forward to school,” Davis said. “What sticks out to me is being on (the cover) of Sports Illustrated, throwing my shutout and making it to Williamsport. … It was very cool.”

Taney Dragons manager Alex Rice fields questions from reporters with his team gathered around him after the Phillies tribute to his team. Photo by Webster Riddick

Taney Dragons manager Alex Rice fields questions from reporters with his team gathered around him after the Phillies tribute to his team. Photo by Webster Riddick

The solid of performance of both the Taney Dragons and the all-Black U.S. champion Chicago Jackie Robinson West squad marked the comeback of urban baseball. The Taney Dragons squad was a multi-ethnic squad that looked more like America.

“I ran with my kids from Philadelphia, they were a perfect cross section of Philadelphia and I was thrilled with ther talent that made the team and I loved them,”  Rice said.

Mo’ne Davis and Chicago Jackie Robinson West Will Hopefully Rejuvenate Interest in Baseball Among African-Americans

22 Aug

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Mo'ne Davis' 70 mile-per-hour fast ball led the Taney Dragons of South Philadelphia to the Little League World Series.

Mo’ne Davis’ 70 mile-per-hour fast ball led the Taney Dragons of South Philadelphia to the Little League World Series.

PHILADELPHIA—In 2005, I did a series of stories for the Philadelphia Tribune on the declining number of African-Americans in Major League Baseball.

One of the people I interviewed for the story was Negro League legend Buck O’Neill, former manager of the Kansas City Monarchs. As we talked about how to turn the tide, O’Neill said that programs like the Reviving Baseball in the Inner City, or RBI, would help because he was convinced that once Black kids started playing baseball, they’d grow to love it.

That two of the remaining teams in the Little League World Series–Philadelphia’s own Taney Dragons and the Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago—are teams that feature Black kids proves that O’Neill might have been on to something.

The Chicago Jackie Robinson West representing the Great Lakes Region will take on Nevada for the U.S. Championship on Saturday.

The Chicago Jackie Robinson West representing the Great Lakes Region will take on Nevada for the U.S. Championship on Saturday.

Somewhere in the heavens, the performances of the all-Black Jackie Robinson West team and Taney pitcher Mo’ne Davis are making O’Neill smile. Both teams have been the talk of the summer classic of the country’s best 12 and 13-year-old baseball players held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

As her team’s best player and pitcher, Mo’ne is giving new meaning to the phrase “throws like a girl”. With a 70 mile-per-hour fast ball, the 5-foot-4, 13-year-old pitcher has been mowing down her competition.

Mo’ne has led the South-Philadelphia based Taney Dragons, the first team from the city to make it to the LLWS, to a 2-2 record in the Little League World Series before they were eliminated by the Jackie Robinson West Squad from Chicago on Thursday.

As the first girl to throw a shutout in a Little League World Series game, Mo’ne is the first Little Leaguer and the youngest athlete to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She gave up three runs and struck out six in three innings of work in Taney’s 8-1 loss to Nevada on Wednesday.

(Which might also make her the youngest victim of the dreaded SI jinx, but we’re not going to talk about that…)

The success of Mo’ne and the Dragons has had fans from around the country glued to their TV sets. Folks ranging from First Lady Michelle Obama to NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson have praised the female hurler and WNBA star Britney Griner is looking for Mo’ne’s jersey.

(I wish you luck on that one, Britney. They’re selling like hotcakes!)

But while Mo’ne Davis is making young girls practice their curveball grip, Taney’s just one of the LLWS’s big urban baseball stories. The kids from the all-Black Chicago Jackie Robinson West team are also making history.

Jackie Robinson West is the second team from Little League Baseball’s Urban Initiative to make it to Williamsport. The champs of the Great Lakes Region will have taken on Taney for the right to face Nevada in the U.S. Championship game.

Coming from an urban center known for its crime, violence and poverty, the kids from Jackie Robinson West have been a breath of fresh air to a city where hope oftentimes doesn’t exist.

It’s also a team that knows how to bounce back from adversity. After a 13-2 loss to Nevada in a game that was called after four innings due to the Mercy rule, the kids from the Southside of Chicago found themselves on the short end of a 7-6 deficit against the team from Cumberland, Rhode Island coming into the fifth inning.

But the hard-hitting team from Chicago rallied to score two runs to take the lead and thanks to some outstanding relief pitching held on to win 8-7. After wins over Pearland, Texas and a close 6-5 win over the Taney Dragons, they will have a rematch against that unbeaten Nevada squad for the U.S. Championship.

The winner of that game will face the winner of the International Championship game between South Korea and Japan.

At a time when costs for the game including gloves, bats and other equipment run into the thousands, watching the performances of the Taney Dragons and Jackie Robinson West have taken the edge off of a summer where violence and racial tensions have been far too prominent.

I don’t know if seeing these two groups of kids playing in Williamsport will spark a renaissance of urban baseball that will bring the percentage of American-born Black players in the major leagues up its current 8 percent, but it’s a step in the right direction.

It’s certainly enough to bring a smile to the faces of Buck O’Neill, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson and the rest of Black Baseball’s ancestors.