CHICAGO (CBS) -- Little League International officials have stripped Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team of its national title from last summer's Little League World Series, for allegedly adding top suburban players in violation of residency rules.
Little League officials determined that "the Jackie Robinson West Little League and Illinois District 4 Administrator knowingly violated Little League International Rules and Regulations by placing players on their team who did not qualify to play because they lived outside the team's boundaries."
As a result, Jackie Robinson has vacated all its wins from the 2014 Little League tournament, including its regional and U.S. championships. The U.S. title from the Little League World Series will go to Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas.
"For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses," said Mr. Stephen D. Keener, Little League International President and CEO. "This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome. As our Little League operations staff learned of the many issues and actions that occurred over the course of 2014 and prior, as painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. No team can be allowed to attempt to strengthen its team by putting players on their roster that live outside their boundaries."
Jackie Robinson West manager Darold Butler has been suspended from Little League activity, and Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly has been removed from his position.
The team also has been placed on probation, and its tournament privileges were suspended until replacements have been appointed for Jackie Robinson West president Anne Haley, and treasurer Bill Haley; and the league is back in compliance with Little League rules.
Little League officials met Tuesday to discuss the alleged residency violations, after looking into complaints from the Evergreen Park Little League team that some of Jackie Robinson West's players live outside the established boundaries for the team from Chicago's South Side.
The allegations were first brought to Little League International by Evergreen Park Little League vice president Chris Janes.
Janes said he's not surprised by the league's decision.
"It's a sad ending. … And it stinks that the kids get caught in the middle of this, and it stinks that their names are associated with it, but again there were rules, and Jackie Robinson broke them, and they used kids to do it," Janes said. "At the end of the day, they were just pawns in a much bigger game, and it's unfortunate. I became a closet fan just watching those guys play. They seemed super charismatic, really bright; very likeable kids. People took advantage of them."
Jackie Robinson West officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
It is only the third time in Little League history a team has been forced to vacate its wins. In 1992, a Philippines team was disqualified for using ineligible players, and in 2001, a Little League team from the Bronx was disqualified, after it was learned star player Danny Almonte was 14 at the time it won the title, meaning he was two years too old to play.
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