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LITTLE LEAGUE NOTEBOOK : He Touched All the Bases in His Efforts to Cheer on the Team

August 26, 1993|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Ryan Beaver, who pitched for the Long Beach All-Stars in last year's Little League World Series, wanted badly to return to cheer for this year's team.

His mother, Linda Beaver, said Ryan did not want a birthday present and forsook a Christmas gift in exchange for getting to come back here. When Ryan, 13, won $500 in a spring raffle, he proudly announced to his mother that he would apply it to an airplane ticket to Williamsport.

Beaver, who will be a freshman at Wilson High School this fall, was the starting pitcher a year ago when the Philippines defeated Long Beach, 15-4, in the title game. The Philippine team was later determined to have used overage players and Long Beach was declared world champion by default.

"All I remember is the cheating," said Beaver, who is too old to play Little League this season.

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Last year's events have been the talk of the taverns in Williamsport, a city of 31,000 next to the Susquehanna River.

Nick Cioffi, one of the volunteers who secures the gate to the players' housing, said he is glad Little League finally got tough with violators after years of speculation that cheating was going on internationally.

"People around here talked about what happened last year all winter," he said. "What it came down to was whether Little League was going to act to clean up all this cheating, or was it going to let the cheaters walk away free?"

Little League officials earlier this month cracked down again on cheating when they banned perennial champion Taiwan and the Dominican Republic from playing in this year's event for violations of eligibility rules.

Ed Cladius, who is working his 41st series as a volunteer, said that had Little League not acted, many in Williamsport were ready to abandon their support for the series. But now, he said, townspeople have flung themselves back into the event with a passion.

"Everyone is real hep about this year," he said.

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Long Beach is a loose team.

A favorite activity here is sliding down the grass hill behind the outfield. Officials discourage it because they want the scenery to look nice for TV cameras.

Two Long Beach players were caught by security guards sliding down the hill Monday. And three hijacked a golf cart and tried to take a drive around the compound.

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Long Beach District Administrator Bob McKittrick says he does not like the round-robin playoff format that was established last year because it is bogus.

He pointed out that last year, Long Beach was the only undefeated team after two games, but still had to win a third game to reach the semifinals in the four-team U.S. division. This year, the Long Beach-Bedford, N.H. game on Wednesday was meaningless because the two teams had 2-0 records and had already been assured of reaching the semifinal game today. The top two U.S. teams play each other today, with the winner advancing to meet the champion of the international bracket in Saturday's final.

McKittrick said he favors a system that rewards winning teams, rather than one that keeps them guessing. But he did not say how he would change the system.

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There was a 131-minute rain delay--two minutes short of the series record--in Tuesday's afternoon game between Bedford, N.H., and Hamilton, Ohio. And the weather is expected to be unsettled through the end of the series, with thundershowers predicted Friday or Saturday.

If it rains Saturday, postponing the title game, it would be rescheduled to Sunday.

If Long Beach advances to the final, some of the team's fans will be unhappy if the series is extended. Many purchased non-refundable airline tickets with Sunday departures.

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Creighton J. Hale, Little League chief executive officer, said the tournament will add eight teams, possibly as soon as next year.

With the completion of new housing for the players in International Grove, facilities on the 64-acre site can handle about 250 players, which is enough to expand the tournament.

The new dorms replaced antiquated bunkhouses that were built before World War II and had no plumbing.

A 16-team tournament has been rumored for at least five years, and would take anywhere from four to seven extra days to complete.

That suits merchants here just fine. The annual event brings in about $5 million a year, according to the Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce.

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ESPN will televise the championship game of the United States Division at 1:30 p.m. (PDT) Thursday. The International Division final will be shown at noon. The World Series title game will be on Channel 7 at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

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Three players on the Long Beach team are eligible to return to the all-star team next year, and Huntley, who runs the league's Minor Division, says there's a good crop of youngsters coming up to the Major Division.

The three returning players are starting catcher Billy Gwinn, backup outfielder Cassidy Traub and backup infielder Charlie Hayes.

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