1982 Little League Team Brings World Championship To Kirkland
In the summer of 1982, Kirkland, Wash., was a quiet bedroom community. That was, until the local underdog Little League team made it to the World Championship game and became a part of sports history.
Across Lake Washington from Seattle is the city of Kirkland. With its waterfront setting and proximity to Microsoft, the tech boom of the past 20 years has brought money and sophistication to its once sleepy streets.
But back in the early 1980s, Kirkland hadn't changed much since World War II. The town still had a 1930s JC Penney department store, a Sears catalog outlet, a five–and–dime from the 1940s, and a poplar–lined Little League ball field called Everest Park.
On Saturday, August 28, 1982, sleepy Kirkland was about to wake up.
The Kirkland Nationals Little League team was made up of all-stars from Everest Park. They made the playoffs, and they won every game. They earned the right to play against a team from Taiwan in the Little League World Series Championship in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
But Taiwan was a Little League powerhouse. They'd won five championships in a row, and were favored to win it all again. As the first pitch was thrown, a record crowd of more than 36,000 jammed the ballpark in Pennsylvania. Back in Kirkland, radios tuned in to follow the action.
Kirkland scored first, but the star of the game was Kirkland's pitcher Cody Webster. Webster threw strike after strike and shut down the Taiwan team. With two innings to go, Kirkland was up 4–0. Then, Webster the pitcher came up to bat.
Webster hit the ball farther than any other homerun in Little League World Series history. But Taiwan was known for its high–scoring comebacks. Webster the pitcher went back to work for the final inning. Nobody scored off of Webster and Kirkland became the new world champion of Little League Baseball.
The next day, a huge crowd of 40,000 people lined Lake Street for a hometown victory parade. It was one of the most memorable weekends in Kirkland history.
For months, the players were heroes and pre–Internet media darlings. There were articles in newspapers around the country, and coverage by Sports Illustrated and ABC's "Wide World of Sports." Like no other event before, the Little League World Championship put Kirkland on the not–yet–Google map.
Three decades later, downtown Kirkland is a different place. The tech boom has brought brew pubs, bistros and Brazilian waxing to the lakefront town.
But kids still play baseball, and Everest Park looks pretty much like it did in 1982, except for those poplars beyond the outfield fence. Nowadays, they're quite a bit taller.
Special thanks to Bill Swartz of 710 ESPN Seattle (and of KGAA Kirkland in 1982) for sharing his recordings of the Kirkland Little League broadcast.
This story was originally broadcast August 28, 2012.