The Road to Williamsport is not just a book about the success of two Little League teams from Colton in the 1950’s, it is 306 pages of illustrated history detailing times when youth baseball was relatively unknown and how enormously popular it became due in large part from Colton’s efforts. The Road to Williamsport portrays a group of 12-year-olds from the small town of Colton who overnight became America’s poster boys. Author Ted Housley verifies the accounts of his book from newspaper clippings and first hand reports filed by his late mother, Nellie.
Housley assembles an easy to read diary about the 1954 and 1956 Colton Lion’s Club Little League all-star teams, who both overcame overwhelming odds to make it to the Little League World Series in Williamsport. The book is officially titled “The Road to Williamsport: My Scrapbook of Memories.” It tells of numerous sub plots to its youth baseball theme by reliving the formative years of Little League Baseball in Colton from 1952 to 1956.
Housley credits Danny Carrasco with being his chief historian on the two-year project. Carrasco played on the 1954 Colton all-star team and on the 1955 team that nearly made it a three-peat, but lost to San Diego in the Western Region semifinals. Although Housley’s mother compiled the scrapbooks because her oldest son Norm was on the 1954 Colton team and younger son, Ted was on the 1956 team, the book is not top heavy with a Housley slant. Nor does Ted Housley try to use the good name of Ken Hubbs to promote the book. While Hubbs went on to become the 1961 National League rookie-of-the-year, Housley does not elevate Hubbs above the little league team, instead shows how he was simply a major player to something much greater. Housley mentioned that because of Colton’s early success on and off the field, that it was considered for the Little League national headquarters instead of Williamsport.
The Road to Williamsport tells in graphic details how the teams boarded the train at the former Southern Pacific depot in Colton to begin a four-day trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. In those days a team had to remain undefeated to advance through the area, district, sectional and regional little league championships. Along with Hubbs, the team had others like John Doty, Norm Housley, Jerry Magness and Tom Hinkle who all eventually signed pro baseball contracts. Their exploits in Williamsport were pictured by Associated Press in newspapers nationwide. Catcher Clarence Brumm was pictured in Life Magazine blowing a big chewing gum bubble.
Ted Housley was one of a handful that made both the 1954 and 1956 trips to Williamsport. Once as a player and another accompanying his brother’s team. He adeptly transforms his one-of-a kind book into a museum-like document. It indicates how these young stars unknowingly were goodwill ambassadors, who came back to Colton more mature after they saw the substandard treatment of others as they traveled through American’s Southern states.
Among the photos is an original photo of THEE Cy Young posing in Williamsport with the 1954 team. Housley then included a rare photo of another Colton great, Camilo Carreon with Hubbs, Doty, Norm Housley and former Colton mayor Mellvile Fuchs. All five are no longer alive. Many other Colton civic leaders are pictured throughout with the team.
In fact, the book is filled with photos, proclamations, world series tickets, rosters, schedules, telegrams, box scores and at least 75 news articles that cannot be found anywhere else. Housley proves how these little men from the town of Colton, population 15,000 became local stars with photos of fans lining up for autographs to prove it.
In 2013, both teams were inducted into the Colton Sports Hall of Fame and continue to be honored guests at numerous Colton events. In observance of the 75th anniversary of little league in 2014, living team members were asked to throw out the first pitch on opening day and at the district tournament held at the Ken Hubbs Little League on Max Lofy Field. At one time nearly 4,000 well wishers would congregate to see them, however Housley and Carrasco admit that time has caused those crowds to dwindle significantly.
For team members those special times will never dwindle, creating a tight fraternal order that has lived within them for a lifetime. Housley tells side stories that further tightened their bond, such as the number of Colton players who had family confined to wheelchairs, or who had a father die when they were pre-teens. The book is brutally honest about the segregation in Colton and about even worse examples of discrimination the teams saw when their train stopped in places like New Orleans.
Housley tells how hall of fame announcer Mel Allen, the voice of the New York Yankees, provided television and radio play-by-play for their world series games. Then, the voice of the Los Angeles Rams, Bob Kelly announced their regional games from Santa Monica on KHJ-Channel 9. Housley explains how the 1954 Colton team won 12 straight wins to make the championship game, where it lost to New York, 7-5. Ted Housley’s 1956 team won 13 straight but lost in the semifinals to Delaware, 2-0.
Carrasco and the late Jerry Magness were both on the 1954 and 55 teams. Magness died less than two months after being interviewed for the book by Housley. Another amazing story Housley includes is that of Wayne Thornton, a member of the near-miss 1955 Colton team. Thornton had pitched only one game in the regular season. In the all-star playoffs, Thornton threw a no-hitter, two one-hitters and won another with a two-hitter.
The Road to Williamsport describes the pain that members of both teams feel as time goes on. More than half the 28 total players have died. Some from well publicized events and ailments. Those like Carrasco, who wrote the book’s foreward also get called to present eulogy’s, like the one for teammate Jerry Magness.
Housley does not only put into words and illustration lasting memories, he creates the illusion of the crack of the wooden bat, the feel of a game winning home run, the taste of bubble-gum and the smell of popcorn and hot dogs. Housley sells the Road to Williamsport on CD for $15 each.
Housley and Carrasco will appear at Ken Hubbs LL on Max Lofy Field for opening ceremonies on April 11th. They will sell the CD there for $10.
For more info: tedhousley@Reagan.com