First Little Leaguer To Play Pro Ball

First Little Leaguer to play pro ball has fond memories


Al Yearick was there when Carl Stotz marked off the dimensions of the first

Little League field in Williamsport in 1938.

He was a player on the original Little League teams formed by Stotz the

following year.

He was also the very first Little Leaguer to play professional baseball.

For Yearick, 90, of Shamokin Dam, playing baseball was simply his passion.

“It was my dream from the time I was a little boy,” Yearick said. “It was

always something I wanted to do.”

Baseball fans won’t find Yearick’s name in box scores of any Major League

game.

He never got out of the minor leagues.

But he was, in fact, a professional ballplayer, if only for several seasons.

Yearick has just ended his enlistment in the U.S. Marines when he came

home to Williamsport.

He admits the dates for him are a little fuzzy, but he thinks the year was 1947.

He was playing for a team in Williamsport known as the Polish Cubs when a

scout from the Boston Braves spotted him.

“He was looking for players. He asked me if I wanted to sign a contract,”

Yearick said.

Yearick, passionate as ever about baseball, was eager to sign.

By 1948, two years after graduating from Williamsport High School, he was

playing for Mount Airy, N.C., a Class D team in the Blue Ridge League.

That season, he hit .262 in 54 games.

He played for other teams over the next few years, first for the Hazard

Bombers in the Mountain State League, and then two seasons with Niagara

Falls, a Class C club in the Middle Atlantic League.

Mostly, Yearick was a catcher, but he also played some outfield.

“I had a good arm, good speed, but I was small as catchers go,” he said. “I

hit .307 the one year.”

That season of 1951 was his best at the plate, helping Niagara Falls capture

the league championship.

Over the winter of 1951-52, the Middle Atlantic League broke up, leaving

Yearick a free agent, he said.

Back home in Williamsport, he worked out with the Class A Grays, the city’s

Eastern League team, hoping to continue his professional baseball career.

Although there was interest in Yearick, his getting signed to continue playing

didn’t work out.

For his four seasons of professional baseball, Yearick played in 300 games,

compiling a .253 batting average.

He got a job working briefly for Little League before later catching on with

Weis Markets where he had a long career before retiring in 1995 as director of

distribution and transportation.

Growing up in the Newberry section of Willamsport, Yearick said he was

always playing baseball.

“Before Little League, we played sandlot. We would get broken bats and old

balls,” he said.

He recalled Stotz putting down newspapers for bases when he created his

Little League diamond.

He was among the boys recruited by Stotz to play on one of the three original

Little League teams.

The initial practice held by Stotz for Little Leaguers was held behind Bowman

Field, and Yearick remembered getting there early before everyone else

showed up.

“I eventually got on the team that the founder (Stotz) had. We won the

championship three years. So, we were world champs three years,” he said

with a laugh. “That was the start of the program.”

After Little League, Yearick continued playing ball in different leagues around

the city.

Remarkably, Yearick never played baseball at Williamsport High School

because it didn’t field a team.

But he was happy to have played professional baseball, and of course, to have

been part of history as one of the first Little Leaguers.

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