A Chicago-based team that last year became the first all-black contingent to win the U.S. Little League Baseball championship was stripped of the title on Wednesday for using players who lived outside the geographic area set for the squad.
The Jackie Robinson West team met with adjoining Little League districts in Illinois to secure players and build what, in effect, became an all-star team, Little League Baseball said, blaming the situation on "the action of adults."
The 2014 U.S. championship has been awarded to the Mountain Ridge Little League team from Las Vegas, which lost to the Chicago squad in the title game, officials said.
"For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses," Little League International Chief Executive Stephen Keener said in a statement. "This is a heartbreaking decision."
Little League Baseball said Darold Butler, the Chicago team's manager, has been suspended from Little League activity because of the violation and Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly also has been removed from his position.
Jackie Robinson West defeated the Las Vegas team 7-5 in the U.S. title game last August before losing in the global Little League championship game to a squad from Seoul, South Korea, 8-4.
The nation's third-largest city, which has been troubled by violence and budget problems, cheered the team's success.
Tens of thousands of people lined Chicago's streets to cheer the 11- and 12-year olds who rode on buses through the city after their U.S. title win. They went on to visit the White House and receive other honors.
Team officials on several occasions had rebuffed media reports and accusations that some of the players were not residents in the team's official boundary area, or that the boundary area had been expanded incorrectly.
"What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome," Keener said.
Keener said stripping the team was "a necessary decision to maintain the integrity" of Little League Baseball.
"No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries," he said. (Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Will Dunham)
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