The week has been a roller-coaster ride for members of the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team, the first all-black team to win the U.S. championship.
First the players were stripped of the title they won last summer because team officials were found to have violated a rule setting geographic boundaries within which teams must find their players.
Then on Friday it was reported that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel still plans to honor the team for its historic performance by presenting each member of the team with a championship ring next month, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
The move comes after the mayor appealed unsuccessfully to the president of Little League International to reverse a decision to strip the kids of the title, the newspaper reports. Emanuel plans to present the rings to the team before the City Council in March.
“Mayor Emanuel believes it is unfair for the organization to have punished the children, who did nothing wrong,” a mayoral source told the Sun-Times.
The Sun-Times quoted Emanuel as saying, “These young men demonstrated tremendous character both on and off the field, and Chicago will honor them as the champions they are. The memories they created will last a lifetime, and so will the championship rings they have earned.”
Shortly after the team played for the Little League World Series title last summer, losing to South Kore’s Seoul Little League, Emanuel reportedly sought private donors to buy national championship rings for the team. Because the rings take months to manufacture and personalize, they were already scheduled to arrive in the city this winter, the Sun-Times notes. Each ring is engraved with a player’s name, jersey number and the number 42, a nod to Jackie Robinson.
As The Root noted this week, citing a report at ESPN, the team is not the first to lose its title. “In 1992, Little League baseball took away the title from Zamboanga, Philippines, and handed it to Long Beach, Calif., after Zamboanga used several players that lived outside its district or were over-age. In 2001, a team from the Bronx, N.Y., that finished third was forced to forfeit its games after pitcher Danny Almonte was revealed to be over-age,” ESPN reports.
Read more at the Chicago Sun-Times.