It’s been 53 years since Brookfield split its Little League organization in two. But after a five-decade intramural rivalry between Brookfield National and Brookfield American, the two organizations are hoping to merge into a single entity.
But, the final decision rests in the hands of the national Little League organization, which is responsible for granting local charters. According to Mike Legge, director for the Little League Central Region in Indianapolis, the request will funnel through his office but the ultimate decision will be made by the charter committee in Williamsport, Pa.
“What they’re asking is to change two charters into one,” Legge said. “A whole new organization will have to be chartered, so it’ll be the same process each one originally went through.”
Legge said that the charter committee could make a decision fairly quickly.
“The charter committee meets on a weekly basis,” Legge said. “Provided we have the information in our hands early enough, we can make the presentation to the committee.”
Legge added that such a change could be worked through in “a matter of weeks,” but resisted speculating on exactly how long, because “it is a significant change being requested.”
Brookfield American Little League reportedly has sought a merger of the two leagues for several years, and the two leagues already run girls softball as a cooperative entity, although they must request a waiver from the Little League organization each year to do so.
Part of Brookfield American’s motivation to seek a merger stems from the fact that its numbers have fallen in recent years. This year, about 120 players have registered, a good number of them in lower age groups. With few teams to play within its own league, Brookfield American already plays games against Brookfield National and Lyons-McCook Little League.
Meanwhile, Brookfield National Little League, has approximately 300 boys and girls registered in its program, which is growing.
Brookfield National president Brian Ticknor said that he hopes that the national Little League office will be able to come to a decision on the proposed merger by early March in order to give the league time to select teams and order uniforms before opening day on April 17.
“We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for the kids,” Ticknor said.
Brookfield American president Yvonne Prause declined to comment since the merger has not yet been completed.
According to the Brookfield Diamond Jubilee book published in 1968, a group of men, including George McCullough, Frank Buresh, Harold Easch, Irving Eiserman, Frank Thorp, Irving Zajicek, Virgil Lewin and Al St. Germain founded Brookfield National Little League in 1952.
The league’s first game was played at Kiwanis Park on May 30, 1952, with Village President Dan Kulie throwing out the first pitch. An article in the May 29, 1952 Brookfield Enterprise newspaper noted that the league, which drew boys from all over Brookfield, was made up of four teams of 15 boys each despite the fact that some 275 had registered to play that spring.
By the next year, a group of men on the south side of Brookfield, including future Village President Philip Hollinger, approached the village’s Recreation Commission about starting a league for boys living south of the Burlington Northern railroad tracks.
The Recreation Commission approved installing a backstop in Jaycee/Ehlert Park, and left the rest up to the families to otherwise improve the field. By the time play began in 1953, Brookfield American Little League had four fully equipped and manned baseball teams.