The main storyline going into the Little League World Series was about a girl who could pitch against the boys. But while she was the main attraction in Williamsport, Mo’Ne Davis ended up as the sidebar to a bigger story — though it was also one she was part of.
Davis’ Philadelphia team was eventually bested by Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West squad in the U.S. semifinal, meaning two inner-city teams reached the top three in the nation. It’s a huge boost for baseball, which has seen its pastoral pace and need for large, green space cut down on the sport’s popularity in that setting. So while Major League Baseball is arguably the most diverse North American sport in terms of international players — rosters are filled with players from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South American and Asia — the number of African-Americans playing has dwindled continuously since the early ’90s.
As Jackie Robinson West has proven, baseball is still cool. And Chicago certainly noticed.
The team was greeted home with a parade from its namesake park on the city’s far South Side to downtown Millennium Park, where more than 10,000 people gathered to celebrate. Officials from the White Sox and Cubs also participated in the fete, which certainly had to be mindblowing for a group of 12-year-old kids.
Certainly, the scale of the event speaks to how starved Chicago fans are for any baseball team they can call a winner of their own. But it was also a testament to the overwhelming Midwesterness of the city, which is often lost within its vast size. Things are certainly different in the city than in the little Illinois towns that are a two-hour drive away, but at the heart of it both are similarly provincial in their pride — those are our boys. They represent all of us. If that attitude can continue to prevail in a place that’s frequently fragmented — many probably haven’t even set foot in the South Side based on reputation alone — then their significance is much greater than baseball.
For a team named after Jackie Robinson, that would be the most fitting way for the story to end.
More photos of the event below: