Long before pogs, there were pins.
Collecting and trading small, colorful metal pins from districts worldwide is a longtime Little League tradition. Players receive pins for advancing through each level of tournament play, and pins are exchanged by teams before games as a show of sportsmanship.
The pins are studded on the caps and jackets of fans, and serious collectors carry booklets with cloth pages full of pins.
Pins have various designs, including district and league logos. Others are more creative. One pin from District 13 in Ventura County, for example, features three mice with canes and dark eye glasses wearing blue suits. Beneath the mice are the words, “Three Blind Umps.” That pin was traded Wednesday for a pin from Maracaibo, Venezuela.
Pin collecting transcends age and cultural differences. One avid pin collector is Sylvia Sanders, wife of Merle Sanders, the 63-year-old World Series public address announcer and administrator of District 40, to which Northridge belongs.
Sylvia Sanders and Northridge League official Paula Mort were seated on the lawn outside Howard J. Lamade Stadium Wednesday, surrounded by children and hundreds of pins. Sanders boasts a collection of more than 10,000 pins gathered over 15 years.
“The nice part of pin trading is that people from all these different cities and countries interact,” Sanders said. “I believe that pins should be only traded, never sold. The challenge is trade for the rare ones, the ones you’ve never seen before.”
Sanders, who has attended the past 10 World Series, has different District 40 pins made every year by one of two companies authorized by Little League Baseball, Inc. The pins, she said, cost between 50 cents and $2 each to make.
The complex: In addition to Howard J. Lamade Stadium, named after the farmer who donated the land, the World Series complex includes Little League Headquarters and a Little League Museum.
Adjacent to headquarters is the City View Motel, the rear of which overlooks the field. Five Northridge families have rooms there, and they watch games that don’t involve Northridge from the porch outside their rooms.
“We’ve got a refrigerator and lounge chairs here and can watch baseball all day long,” said Michael Nesbit, whose son, Michael is a Northridge reserve.
Safety first: Displays at the Little League Museum illustrate the evolution of youth baseball equipment, with special emphasis on the creations of Creighton J. Hale, president and CEO of Little League Baseball, Inc., since 1983.
Hale, 70, has a Ph.D. in physiology, and he holds patents for several pieces of Little League equipment, including the batter’s helmet, one-piece catcher’s helmet-mask, a chest protector that covers the throat and a fence that incorporates a cloth-like material that stretches on contact.
“Little League has been criticized for not being safety-conscious enough,” Hale said, “but the advances we have made in equipment show that we indeed care deeply about safety.”
Hale also is credited with developing a baseball shoe with molded, rubber cleats and with helping develop the aluminum bat.
Life of luxury: Little League has made significant improvements the past two years to the dormitories the players and coaches live in during the World Series.
Until 1993, the dorms were beat-up cabins with outdoor restroom facilities. Last year, players moved into new dorms with comfortable beds and large bathroom and shower facilities.
“The bathroom is so big the kids play hide-and-seek in there,” said Larry Baca, the Northridge manager, who also noted that each manager and coach has a separate bedroom and bathroom.
This year a cafeteria and game room opened. The teams eat together, giving players a greater opportunity to interact.
“The beds are just like at home, with wood frames and everything,” said Todd DeLeive, a Northridge player.
Add expansion: The dorms were built with accommodations for 16 teams. Hale said that Little League plans to double the teams that qualify for the World Series.
“We’re not certain when that will happen, but that is the plan,” he said. “There will be eight teams from the U.S. and eight foreign teams.”
Eye on youth: The staff photographer for Little League Baseball, Inc., is Russ Tinsley, a Tarzana resident who has shot the World Series for 12 years.
Tinsley’s Los Angeles firm, Echo Film Services, has won seven Emmy awards for sound editing and is nominated for four Emmys this year.