Author’s note: Being recognized for and having your name listed on a sports record is very exciting and noteworthy. For anyone familiar with baseball, they most likely know what the Little League World Series is and where it is held. Rodney “Fizz” Riden, my grandfather, is definitely familiar with the Little League World Series as he not only played in 1950 but has held a record in the Series for 68 years. It is important to note that his record will never be broken. I chose to write about my grandfather because he accomplished so much at such a young age, and I feel that his story needs to be told and heard.
The Little League World Series tournament is held every summer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The first official game was played in 1947 and became so popular that in 1953, the games began to be televised. It wasn’t until 1958 that international teams were invited to play in the series. But it was 1950 that was a significant year for Fizz Riden. That was the year he became very popular in Williamsport.
In 1950, Fizz was named on the roster of the Lewistown Little League All-Star team for Lewistown, Pennsylvania. It was this team that went to Williamsport to play for a chance to be one of two teams to play for the championship of the Little League World Series. Both he and his brother, Charlie, played on the same team. Charlie was just a couple of years older than him. They first played for the Siglerville team and then moved to Lewistown. Being selected to play for their Little League All Star team wasn’t too difficult for him or his brother. They were considered to be some of the best kids in the league.
At the time Fizz played in the World Series tournament, he weighed a mere 65 pounds, stood at only three feet, eleven inches tall, and was only nine years old. He played at the third base position and could run faster than most of the kids on the team. When asked about his first time stepping onto the field to play, he said, “I remember being intimidated by the size of the field as it was a bigger and nicer facility than I was used to playing on. There were so many more people there to watch the game. As soon as the game started, that all went away and I wasn’t nervous anymore.”
Throughout the tournament, a lot of people were drawn to him because of his small size and big talent. He quickly became a stand out on the field because of his size, but he continued to surprise the crowds with his great baseball skills. There were thousands of people constantly rushing over to him before and after the games asking for his autograph and wanting pictures of him. The fans even went as far as showing up outside of the hotel where he was staying, the Lycoming Hotel, and bringing him gifts such as balls, bats, shirts, and hats. All of the attention was interesting for Fizz. He didn’t really understand the fascination he was causing and certainly didn’t know that he was making history.
He and another player from another team were constantly noted in the news for their short height and young age. Although being the size he was brought a lot of attention from the crowd, it wasn’t always ideal for the game. Fizz was obviously very skilled at fielding and running, but there were limitations to his batting abilities due to his size. His batting skills were also good, but he could never hit a home run during that period of time in his baseball career. He pointed out that he could always hit the balls to the fence, but he could never get them over it.
Considering how long ago and how young Fizz actually was when playing in the Little League World Series, there are details about the game and his time in Williamsport that he could no longer recall. But there are certainly several things that stuck out to him. He said, “My brother was the best catcher around. There was a guy coming to third base. He threw the ball, I dove for it, and it took my glove off. He didn’t score. A guy was listening to the radio and they said, ‘The pint-size Fizzer Riden, he knocked it down.’ Yeah, I can remember some of those things. I just said to your grandmother, 68 years ago, you kind of forget what happened back then.” He easily remembers the adrenaline rush and the excitement he felt when he stepped up to the plate to get ready to bat. He also talked about a girlfriend he had while in Williamsport. She would watch him play. He said that she and her mom worked in the concession stand which was beneficial for him. Any time he went to the food stand, he always got free food.
Unfortunately, he can’t remember the final score of the game, but he does remember losing their second to last game which threw them out of the running for the championship. Their team made it to second place and couldn’t advance any further because of the single elimination rule that existed at that time. He was lucky enough to play on the LIttle League All Star team again in 1952. That team did not do as well in the final standings as the team from 1950.
The rules for the Little League World Series have changed over the years. Originally they allowed only 12 teams to play; that number has increased to 16 teams today. The original format didn’t allow for international teams to participate, but they have been playing since 1958. Another rule change involves the age requirement. The current required age of the player is 11-12. There was not an age restriction when Fizz played. This explains why he was able to play when he was 9 years old. This also explains why it was determined that he is, and always will be, known as the youngest Little League All-Star to ever take the field.
Unfortunately, neither team that Fizz played on made it to the championship, but they had a great time trying. He has many fond memories from his time on the field and in the spotlight. Fizz was in the spotlight for several reasons: his talent, his size, and his age. Along with his accomplishments while playing in the tournament, Fizz is also very proud of the distinction of being the youngest person ever to play in the Little League World Series. And to know that record will never be broken, brings a smile to his face.