The newly crowned world champion Little League baseball team from Long Beach scored a major league welcome at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday night, as a jubilant crowd of 200 family members, friends, a throng of autograph-seekers and TV camera crews welcomed them home.
The only missing ingredient was a champagne bath, which the underage heroes had to forgo. Instead, the fatigued 11- and 12-year-old boys were showered with hugs and kisses from their parents, and overwhelmed by shrieks from their fans.
The Long Beach youngsters won the Little League World Series on Saturday by defeating the team from Panama in the last inning, by a score of 3-2.
"All the fans cheering us on--that was the best part," said 12-year-old pitcher Sean Burroughs, as he autographed baseball caps and scraps of paper for admiring fans amid a crush of reporters who met the team after its five-hour flight from Philadelphia. The Little League World Series was played nearby at Williamsport, Pa.
"It was great--really nerve-racking," beamed 12-year-old pinch-runner Charlie Hayes as the team posed for photographs.
He came across the plate with the winning run on a single by Jeremy Hess. "When (Jeremy) got that single, it was the greatest thing on earth."
Greeting the Long Beach All-Stars was a phalanx of well-wishers waving U.S. flags and a banner saying: "Beach Boys--You're No. 1."
Mildred Main, the grandmother of players Chris and Kevin Miller, was among those cheering the team. As she posed for a picture with her champs, she recalled that she had played right field on the women's softball team at South Dakota State College in the years before World War II.
Later, the team boarded vans to head for a Long Beach park for a welcome by Mayor Ernie Kell. A victory parade through Long Beach is planned.
Long Beach is the first U.S.team in the 47-year history of the Little League World Series to win back-to-back titles. They won in 1992 after the Filipino team was disqualified for using ineligible players.
"Every Little League team in America is concerned about winning," said the pitcher's father, Jeff Burroughs, "and we had the cycle of really good athletes come through."