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Opinion: The Sinister Tragedy Of Jackie Robinson West

By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The glorious, perfect story of Jackie Robinson West has turned horribly ugly and tragic.

These wonderful boys of summer, OUR boys of summer, joyfully and brilliantly playing what was once America's National Pastime. Little League World Series national champions: Jackie Robinson West.

Now the narrative has turned dark and sinister.

Cheating. Racism. Victimization.

All of it true, starting today the form of a news release from Little League International.

Jackie Robinson West cheated. Their title, a fraud.

Wait, no, Jackie Robinson West didn't cheat.

These young men played the game.

They are not to blame.

The adults cheated and destroyed the achievements of children.

These children, who we feted as heroes with parades and a visit with President Obama, have been victimized by the systematic and willful misconduct by JRW adult leaders.

These men, like JRW manager Darold Butler and Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly, have been cheating for years, a Little League investigation found.

They changed their league's boundaries to welcome star players.

They conspired. They stole.

They didn't just steal players from other leagues.

They stole the JRW players' hearts. These young men now have to try to explain what was taken from them.

And let's spare the idea that the parents are to blame, too. There is no evidence to suggest they did anything wrong. All they did is provide the proper documentation for their children.

In fact, Little League International acknowledged that the residency documents were in order. Later, it was learned that JRW's administrators moved behind the scenes to change their borders to make it all appear legit. Then, they just didn't bother to tell anybody.

And the narrative gets darker.

The e-mails began to arrive on via the Jackie Robinson website.

Vile, hurtful.

"Shameful & crooked pieces of garbage are what your organization is all about, what a great way to teach gang kids how to prepare for their futures in jail!"

"Big all black Team From Chicago,...Cheating. I'm not suprized I would have Put Money on it. \"Hands up don't Cheat\"

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger made it quite clear at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon: The team's skin color led to a punishment that was too harsh.

Pfleger called the Little League International investigation a "witch hunt." He called on the organization to investigate the other teams, even though there is no credible evidence that would require such an examination.

Suggesting that other teams cheat without credible evidence seems to be the definition of a witch hunt. It should also be noted that two other teams have been stripped of their titles in the past.

The man who first raised concerns about JRW's misdeeds is Chris Janes, of Evergreen Park. DNAInfo's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mark Konkol was the first to cover this story.

Janes says he has received death threats.

Janes told WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser: "At the end of the day, they were just pawns in a much bigger game ... I became a closet fan just watching those guys play. ... People took advantage of them."

There is plenty of meanness in this world.

It is all bared within a story of a bunch of kids who just played a game.

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