In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
A team from Toms River in New Jersey outslugs a team from Japan 12-9 to win the Little League World Series. Toms River is the fourth team from the Garden State to win the annual championship for 10 through 12-year-olds in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Current major leaguer Todd Frazier is the game’s star leading off with a home run and closing it out on the mound.
The Little League World Series was first played in 1947 involving teams in Pennsylvania where the Little League organization was founded and headquartered. The tournament quickly gained popularity and began inviting international teams, when a team from Montreal played in 1952. The tournament held annually in August eventually became a stable on television as it was broadcast as part of ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
As the tournament grew, its impact around the world grew, as it helped spread baseball in other parts of the world like Taiwan, who once dominated the tournament. From 1969-1996, a team from Taiwan won the tournament 17 times, having another championship in 1992 vacated due to using ineligible players. The Taiwan dynasty ended in 1997, when it declared they could no longer comply with the rules, and lost their charter. With the end of the Taiwanese dynasty, the Little League World Series became more wide open with any of the eight teams having a chance to win.
The 1998 tournament was composed of four regional winners from the United States and four International Regional champions. The American Champions were Cypress, California from the West Region, Georgetown Township, Michigan from Central Region, Greenville, North Carolina from the South Region and Toms River, New Jersey from the East. International teams were Langley, British Columbia from Canada, Guadalupe, Mexico from the Latin American Region. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia with a roster made up of American Children representing the Europe Region and Kashima, Japan from the Far East Region.
The teams were placed in two pools, with Toms River, winning all three of the preliminary round games, while Japan went 2-1. Japan would reach the final beating Canada 3-2, to avenge a 10-5 loss in pool play. Meanwhile, New Jersey nicknamed the beast from the East continued to roll beating North Carolina 5-2 to become the United States Champion.
In the final game, it only took four pitches for Toms River to make some noise as Todd Frazier hit a leadoff home run. It was the first of three runs in the first inning as Casey Gaynor son of Coach Mike Gaynor singled home to more. Japan though quickly answered back with back-to-back home runs from Tetsuya Furukawa and Tatsuya Sugata. Japan tied the game in the second and took the lead in the fourth on Furukawa’s second home run. The beast from the east quickly answered as Gaynor and Scott Fisher each hit two-run dingers to put the Jersey Boys back in front 7-4. In the fifth inning, Chris Cardone extended the lead to 8-4, but Japan battled back again tying the game with four runs in the bottom of the inning as Tetsuya Furukawa hit a record third home run, going back-to-back with Sugata again. In the sixth and final inning, Cardone hit a two-run homer to once again give Toms River the lead. They added two more runs on a single by Gabe Gardner to give his team a four-run cushion. Japan would score once off Todd Frazier, but the future major leaguer was on the mound to close the game as Toms River won 12-9 to win the championship. Toms River was the fourth team from New Jersey to win the Little League World Series, joining Hammonton who won in 1949, Wayne who won in 1970, and Lakewood who won the controversial 1975 tournament when international teams were briefly barred from participating. It was also the first American team to win in Williamsport since Long Beach, California in 1993.
After winning the Little League World Series, Toms River celebrated by joining the New York Yankees on the field before a game at Yankee Stadium, including Todd Frazier who stood next to Derek Jeter. Frazier, the standout player on the Toms River team would be the only member of the team to make it to the Major Leagues. The Toddfather who later stared at Rutgers made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, where he was a two-time All-Star and a winner of the 2015 Home Run Derby. In 2016, he was dealt with the Chicago White Sox, as part of a Reds rebuild. From there he spent the end of the 2017 season with the Yankees before becoming a free agent and signing with the New York Mets in 2018.