Since the event first began in 1947, California has reached the Little League World Series final 24 times, winning seven times. Tomorrow, the Golden State will make it 25 trips while hoping to win an eighth title. California has been widely known for producing quality ball players for decades. Since September 2018, it has sent 2,256 young men to the major leagues, by far the highest number of any state in America.
Yes, California has a fine tradition of excellence in America's pastime, but despite the number of LLWS titles to its name, there is a purity to little league baseball that a simple explanation won't suffice. You have to look at each title as what it is, an individual achievement by boys on the precipice of manhood while representing their hometown.
The Golden State first won the LLWS in 1961 when an El Cajon squad that was led by future NFL quarterback Brian Sipe beat Texas (El Campo) 4-2 in the final. The following year, it was San Jose that took home the title, after beating France by 20 in the quarterfinal and Mexico by two in the semifinal on their way to defeating Illinois 3-0 in the championship game.
The following year, Granada Hills joined in on the fun, making it a trifecta for the Golden State when they beat Connecticut 2-1 in the final after having beaten Texas by a run and clobbering Turkey by 14 on their way to history. In some ways, it was the golden age of Little League in California. It would be 29 long years before it reached the summit again.
By 1992, California had come close numerous times to winning the Little League World Series only to fall short. There were the 1969 and 1970 seasons when both Santa Clara and Campbell, neighboring communities in the heart of Silicon Valley, lost. The middle of the 1970s was particularly brutal when teams from El Cajon, Danville and Campbell (twice) lost four consecutive years. Irvine was run off the field in 1987 when it lost 21-1 to Taiwan and San Ramon Valley did little better against the same country, only losing by eleven. But 1992 felt different as Long Beach reached the final against the Philippines. Unfortunately, they lost 6-0.
But word quickly began to spread that the Philippines had used several ineligible players that were too old for Little League. In the end, they were forced to forfeit their title to Long Beach.
Determined to prove that their title the year before was not a fluke, Long Beach set out to win the title again in 1993. Led by future major league Sean Burroughs, they pounded New Hampshire into submission 11-0 in the semifinal before beating Panama 3-2 in the final.
Sixteen years later, Long Beach won again, beating Taiwan 6-3 in the final. Two years later, the Little League World Series was different with an American bracket and an international bracket. Huntington Beach started things off by beating Rhode Island and Kentucky by the combined score of 21-0 but lost to Montana 1-0.
But they had another chance at glory as there were two levels to their bracket. After beating Pennsylvania, they won their rematch against Montana, winning 2-1 to advance to the LLWS against Japan.
Ever since Huntington Beach beat Japan 2-1 in the 2011 Little League World Series, no California team has even been to the final. Until this year.