Babe Ruth League History
Highlights in History
Tribute to Ron Tellefsen

Babe Ruth League, a non-profit, educational organization, named after one of the greatest baseball players of all time – George Herman “Babe” Ruth.  In all aspects, Babe Ruth League, Inc. is committed to providing the very best educational, sports experience possible.  It is Babe Ruth League, Inc.’s fundamental belief that every child with a desire to play baseball or softball be afforded that opportunity.

Babe Ruth League, Inc. stands behind the conviction that childhood is the time of development that molds the type of adults we become.  The League believes that youth baseball and softball are the perfect avenues by which to teach the game of life.  Every child deserves to have special memories, and Babe Ruth League, Inc. has always been about providing a positive environment so youth can develop their skills with an optimistic outlook and with respect for the game, each other, the adults involved, and most importantly, themselves. From the playing field to life, Babe Ruth League has provided millions of kids many valuable life lessons, helping them develop into happy, healthy and productive adults.

A Modest Beginning
In 1951, ten men, who believed the future of their community depended upon the proper development of the young people, met at the historic Yardville Hotel in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, for the purpose of developing a baseball program for young men between 13 and 15 years of age. Babe Ruth League, Inc. recognizes Marius D. Bonacci as the Founding Father of the program, along with the contribution of the following nine men, Samuel M. Welch, Ferdinand J. Wagner, Ed Jones, Ted Jasek, Cliff Fovour, Boots Snyder, William Dombrowski, Maskill Paxson and Willard Carson, Jr.


Through the Years
Originally known as the Little Bigger League, Babe Ruth league has increased steadily from its first 10-team league in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, to its present combined size of over 1 million players.  The divisions:  Cal Ripken Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, Babe Ruth Softball, Bambino Buddy Ball and Xtreme Fastpitch, are successful due to the multitude of volunteer hours spent every year.   Every volunteer from the local league manager to the Chairman of the 17-member International Board of Directors is dedicated to the betterment of youth, while at the same time, producing better baseball and softball players.

Local leagues are independent within the guidelines provided by Babe Ruth League, Inc. and operate with simplicity and autonomy. The Babe Ruth International Board is the governing body while Babe Ruth League International Headquarters, where a full-time staff is assisted by seasonal employees, is the administrative and promotional center.

BRHISTORY2A 16-member full-time staff, assisted by seasonal employees, maintains Babe Ruth's International Headquarters in the suburban community of Lawrence Township, New Jersey.

It is the 13-15 division, started in 1951, where the boys first got their feet wet for the first time on a regulation size baseball diamond. The next stop up the baseball ladder for young athletes was the Babe Ruth 16-18 division, born in 1966 with continued remarkable success.

In 1974, the 13-Year-Old Prep League was added. The Prep League allows 13-year-old players to make the transition to the regulation size diamond, while competing with peers their own age.

In 1982, Babe Ruth Baseball added yet another division to its program, the Bambino Division for players 4-12. July 6, 1999 was the beginning of a new era for Babe Ruth League. The Bambino ThreeRIPKENSDivision was renamed "Cal Ripken Baseball, a Division of Babe Ruth League, Inc." Cal Ripken, Jr.'s visions and philosophies, molded by his father, Cal Ripken, Sr., directly parallel those of Babe Ruth League. Now, two of the most prolific legends and heroes in baseball, inspire in our youth participants their knowledge, spirit and pure passion for the game.  In 2007, the Cal Ripken Major/70 Division debuted.  This new division that uses a 50’ pitching distance and 70’ base paths, put Babe Ruth League, Inc. put itself on the cutting edge of the youth baseball arena.  

In 1984, Babe Ruth League, Inc. added another dimension to its program, Babe Ruth Softball. The Softball Division encompasses players 4 to 18 years of age, and was organized because Babe Ruth League saw a need for a quality national softball program. The softball program was designed to focus on all ability levels of young female athletes, providing them with the same enriching athletic experience as the baseball divisions.

In 2000, the Bambino Buddy-Ball Division was established for players ages 5-20 who are physically and/or mentally challenged. A "buddy" helps the player swing a bat, round the bases, catch a ball.

2013 saw the addition of Xtreme Fastpitch to accommodate all softball participants - those who wish to play on a recreational level to those who seek a higher degree of competition to hone their skills with the goal of continuing play into high school and beyond.

Post-Season Play
Babe Ruth League, Inc. offers an unparalleled, prestigious tournament trail for its participants. A tournament team from each chartered local league enters its district tournament. District winners advance to state-wide competition, with the successful team qualifying for one of eight regional tournaments. The eight regional champions from across the United States and Canada compete in each World Series. Babe Ruth League, Inc. has grown from its inaugural 13-15 World Series in  1952, to seven baseball and five softball World Series - the Cal Ripken 10-Year- Old, Cal Ripken Major/60, Cal Ripken Major/70, 13-Year-Old, 14-Year-Old, 13-15, 16-18, Softball 8U, Softball 10U, Softball 12U, Softball 14U and Softball 16U World Series.  Xtreme Fastpitch teams have the opportunity to participate in tournaments from September 1st through the National Championships, held at the end of the season.


Other Highlights in Babe Ruth League History

In 1952, Babe Ruth Baseball held its first World Series for the 13-15 division in Trenton, New Jersey.  In 1958, the first World Series held outside the United States was played in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  

The Host Family Program and the Hostess program were instituted for World Series competition in 1961.  In 1968, Babe Ruth Baseball held its first 16-18 World Series in Morristown, New Jersey. 

It was during the 1980’s that the Babe Ruth League program flourished with many enhancements being added.  The first 13-Year-Old World Series was played in Jamestown, New York in 1980, and the first Bambino Division (now known as Cal Ripken Baseball) World Series was hosted by Shelbyville, Indiana in 1984. 

Babe Ruth League, Inc. inaugurated the National Umpires Association in 1982 to assist the local leagues affiliated with the program in improving the umpiring in their games. 

In order to educate future World Series sites on hosting a Babe Ruth World Series, the first World Series Training Center was established and hosted by Jamestown, New York in 1986.   Van Buren, Arkansas and Longview, Washington have also hosted World Series Training Centers over the years.  Jamestown, Van Buren and Longview have a thorough knowledge and understanding of what it takes to host a successful and profitable Babe Ruth World Series. 

In 1988 Babe Ruth Baseball began to offer summer baseball camps.  1989 saw the debut of the Little Sister program as part of the Softball World Series.

The 1990’s saw the debut of two new World Series – the first 16-Year-Old held in Carmel, Indiana in 1997 and the first 14-Year-Old held in Clifton Park, New York. 

2001 marked the 50th Anniversary of Babe Ruth League, Inc. with a year-long celebration of special events.  One such event was the 13-15 World Series being played at the site where the program got its start – Switlik Park in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.   Also in 2001, Babe Ruth League held its first Cal Ripken 10-Year-Old World Series in Vincennes, Indiana. 

In 2002, Babe Ruth teams were invited to the White House to participate in the prestigious “T-Ball on the South Lawn.”  It was during this time that then President George W. Bush initiated the program and appointed Cal Ripken, Jr. as T-Ball Commissioner. 

Also in 2002, Babe Ruth League, Inc. was bequeathed a 28 acre complex in Newark Ohio by lifetime volunteer Don Edwards.  For many years, the complex was the international showcase for the program where Babe Ruth League also had a field office.

The first Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series was held in 2007 in Aberdeen, Maryland.

From the Babe Ruth Diamond to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame
Major League Baseball and Babe Ruth League, Inc. have a long, successful working relationship.  Major League Baseball has supported Babe Ruth League over the years, and Babe Ruth League, Inc. has returned the favor in producing Major League prospects and providing an excellent fan base.  The number of former Babe Ruth League players who are on current Major League rosters, or who have participated on Major League teams, many of them some of the sport’s most recognizable names, is too large to chart. 

There are several graduates of the Babe Ruth League program who have excelled in the game at its highest level to earn the most esteemed award - induction into the MLB Hall of Fame.  They include:  Carl Yastrzemski (Class of 1989), Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer (Class of 1990), Rod Carew (Class of 1991), George Brett and Nolan Ryan (Class of 1999), Cal Ripken, Jr. (Class of 2007), Jim Rice (Class of 2009), Frank Thomas (Class of 2014), Randy Johnson and John Smoltz (Class of 2015).  

Other Notable Milestones and Enhancements
Recognizing the strategic role that technology plays in the success of our business and in the success of administering a local league, the Data Center and Babe Ruth Online were introduced in 2008.  Leagues are now able to charter and insure their programs online via the Data Center.  Babe Ruth Online is a custom software package designed specifically for Babe Ruth leagues and offers a turn-key solution for leagues to manage, support and market their organization.  The main tools include websites, roster management, online registration, ID Cards, statistics, schedules, events, news, document storage, photo albums and much more.

Babe Ruth League and Ripken Baseball teamed up with the American Sports Education Program (ASEP) in 2007 to offer Coaching Education and Certification.  In order to raise the bar for youth sports, as of 2008, Babe Ruth League requires all coaches and managers to complete coaching education.  There is no single action that can have a more positive impact on our players than to improve the quality and knowledge of our managers and coaches.  Volunteer coaches are the lifeblood of youth baseball, and they have an obligation to their players to provide them with the best possible instruction and leadership of which they are capable. 

In order to ensure the safety, protection and well-being of its young participants, nationwide background checks on all managers, coaches, board members, as well as any other persons and volunteers, who provide regular service to the league, and/or have repetitive access to, or contact with, players or teams was mandated in 2014. 

2012 saw the debut of the Babe Ruth League Alumni Association.  The purpose of the Alumni Association is to advance the general welfare and support the needs and mission of Babe Ruth League, Inc. and the youth the program serves. The Alumni Association also provides a unique way to stay connected to the Babe Ruth program far beyond the years an individual spends as a player and/or volunteer.

New Home for Babe Ruth Headquarters.  Due to the expansion of the Babe Ruth program, the organization outgrew its location in Trenton, New Jersey, where it had been headquartered since the 1970’s.  Through the leadership efforts of Steven Tellefsen, with assistance from the Alumni Association’s Capital Building Fund, Babe Ruth Headquarters moved to a new Headquarters, more than double the size of its current office, on May 29, 2015.

Babe Ruth League, Inc. enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich youth baseball and softball programs.  The program’s many innovations have changed the way the game is played.  The many enhancements added and milestones reached provide a fun, educational and competitive environment while addressing the safety and well-being of the children who participate under the Babe Ruth banner.  The Babe Ruth League experience is a true celebration for each participant.  The reason the program is so successful is because of its network of volunteers, who give unselfishly of their time and resources to help guide and mold young athletes into real, true citizens.

Babe Ruth League would make the baseball immortal for whom the program is named very proud. Youth always had a special place reserved in "The Babe's heart.

Little Bigger Team