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Little League Torn as Manager Cleared of Throwing Game

June 27, 1985|DICK WAGNER | Times Staff Writer

NORWALK — "I will play fair and strive to win"

-- Little League pledge

On the night they allegedly strived not to win, the youngsters in the orange and white uniforms of the Giants exuberantly awaited their postgame soft drinks.

As shocked onlookers listened, the Giants, fresh from defeat, reportedly said, "Our manager told us to lose," words that have outraged parents and caused dissension among officials of the Little Lake Norwalk Little League.

The manager of the Giants, Jim Rawlings, was found not to have told his players to throw the game after an inquiry by the league board. But a group of parents, who have sons playing in the league, is upset because Giants players were not allowed to tell the board their version of what happened.

One of the Giants players has told The Times that Rawlings told him to deliberately make errors to ensure that the Giants would lose a game to the Dodgers and avoid a team Rawlings feared in the playoffs.

Refused to Discuss Incident

Rawlings reportedly told the board his team members misunderstood his directions. He refused to discuss the incident with the Times.

But it has been discussed in hushed tones at the city's pizza parlors as some people worry about the stain of scandal and whether the league's charter will be taken away, and others worry about moral damage to their sons.

"They're saying cheating works," said Jerry Triplett, a manager in the league and one of a group who, while standing at the league's ballpark snack stand, overheard the Giants talk of throwing a game on a recent Monday evening (June 17).

The Giants lost the game to the Dodgers, 12-9, after leading, 9-4.

Michael Cross, a former Giants coach and father of Giants catcher Raymond Cross, said he knew "something was going on" as he watched the Dodgers score eight runs in the final inning.

"Three times in a row he (his son, Raymond) threw the ball over the pitcher's head into center field, letting runs score," Cross said. "Way over his head."

In a telephone interview, 9-year-old Raymond Cross said:

"Jim called timeout, came out and told me to throw over the pitcher's head so they could get runs.

"And he told the pitcher to walk everyone." (The pitcher was Rawlings' son, Ryan.)

The motive for losing the game was so the Giants would avoid a possible playoff game against the Cubs, and so improve the Giants' chances of moving on to the Tournament of Champions.

(Two teams go to the Tournament of Champions--the winner of a game between the teams with the best record from the first half of the season and second half of the season, and the team with the next-best overall record. Had the Giants, who won the first half, not lost to the Dodgers, the Dodgers and Cubs would have had equal records in the second half and needed a playoff game to determine who was best. If Cubs beat the Dodgers in that game, then the Giants would have had to play the Cubs for

the league championship.)

"Jim said we had to lose the game so we wouldn't have to play the Cubs," Raymond said. "Every time we played them except once we lost. Jim thought we would lose against them in the playoffs."

When Jerry Triplett overheard the Giants that night, his first reaction was, "I can't believe this."

"If it was just two or three who said it, you'd think they misunderstood what the manager said, but all of them said it," Triplett said. "We (the adults at the snack stand) asked them over and over and they kept saying, 'We didn't want to play the Cubs so we threw the game.' "

One manager, who asked that his name not be used, told the same story about the Giants talk of losing. He said the fateful inning "looked borderline. I've coached kids 9 years old. They're world beaters one day and against the same team the next day they can't do anything right. Are they trying to give the game away or are they just being 9-year-old kids?"

Gene Hayes, president of the Little Lake Little League who was at the game that night, called an emergency meeting of the board for the following night.

The board has 12 members, including Linda Rawlings, Jim Rawlings' wife.

The meeting, attended by Darrell Stinson, administrator of the Little League district that oversees Little Leagues in Norwalk, La Mirada, Cerritos, Buena Park, Downey and Cypress, quickly turned into a shouting match, according to those there.

"We (the people who wanted the investigation) were called

head hunters," Triplett said, speaking of about 10 parents and coaches who attended the inquiry.

Stinson asked everyone who did not hear the kids make the statements to leave. Only a couple of people left, Triplett said.

Rawlings and his coaches, Joe Richards and Gary Heater, successfully challenged efforts to have the players testify.

Called a Misunderstanding

Rawlings' defense, according to Stinson, was that his players misunderstood him. Stinson said that Rawlings told the board, "I didn't tell those kids to lose. I said, 'We don't have to win, guys, we've already won the championship.' "

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