Jackie Robinson West baseball team received devastating news earlier this week when Little League International vacated wins from their stellar 2014 season due to allegations of cheating. The South Side Chicago’s U.S. title was subsequently stripped.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to have the decision appealed failed.
But all is not lost for the players of Jackie Robinson West. Rahm plans to gift each member of JRW with a championship ring, the Chicago Sun Times reports. Private donors were reportedly sought to purchase the rings that were produced by Lester Lampert Jewelers.
Each ring reportedly bears the player’s name, their jersey number and baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s number 42.
“Mayor Emanuel believes it is unfair for the organization to have punished the children who did nothing wrong,” a mayoral source told Sun Times.
“These young men demonstrated tremendous character both on and off the field, and Chicago will honor them as the champions they are,” Emanuel said.
“The memories they created will last a lifetime, and so will the championship rings they have earned.”
Jackie Robinson West players were known as the comeback kids after defeating Las Vegas’ Mountain Ridge Little League 7-5 last year in the Little League U.S. Championship. The young players avenged an earlier 12-3 loss to the West Region champion.
JRW became the first all African-American team to play in and win the U.S. championship. The team later lost to Seoul, South Korea in the World title game.
JRW’s accomplishments were great news for a City whose urban communities are riddled with violence and poverty.
But the accomplishments of the all-black squad, ages 11-13, were erased from the history books after Little League International stripped the team of its U.S. title due to a cheating scandal.
The team is accused of having built a super team after it used a “falsified boundary map” to recruit players from neighboring Little League districts in Illinois, according to ABC News.
JRW manager Darold Butler was subsequently suspended from Little League activity. Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly was removed from his position.
Little League International awarded Mountain Ridge the U.S. title.
“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 CEO Stephen D. Keener said in a statement, according to ABC News. “This is a heartbreaking decision. 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.
“As our Little League operations staff learned of the many issues and actions that occurred over the course of 2014 and prior, as painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries.”
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