In Philadelphia, we once demanded a championship parade for a horse. And this was before he had even won the Triple Crown. We just felt that, were Smarty Jones to win the Belmont Stakes, it was worth disrupting a main traffic artery and hurling trash from the buildings in celebration. Of a horse.
It was a sign that, yes, in this city, whether out of devotion or desperation or an odd combination of both, we cherish our champions; even when they’re still just potential champions. So it makes sense that the Taney Dragons, led by pitcher Mo’ne Davis, took Philadelphia by storm in 2014 as the first Little League baseball team from our region to reach the Little League World Series. That, and the fact that they were just fun to watch.
Davis especially developed a following, for obvious reasons. She had a 70 mph fastball and a curveball that left batters blinking. She showed remarkable consistency to her delivery that according to Sport Science, never varied more than three degrees. She was compared to Jonathan Papelbon and compared herself to Clayton Kershaw, who she got to meet in Los Angeles.
In the end, the Dragons didn’t take home the LLWS trophy, but in a summer when the Phillies were getting dragged through August by a bewildered Ryne Sandberg, Taney had provided the best baseball in town.
For anyone wondering what Davis is getting up to these days, don’t worry, she’s still icing hitters; only now, she does it in a Phillies uniform.
The MLB RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities) World Series is a program administered by Major League Baseball in 200 cities around the world. According to MLB.com, they exist to provide "underserved and diverse communities with the opportunity to play baseball and softball, encourage academic success, and teach the value of teamwork and other important life lessons."
This year, the tournament took place at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, where the Chicago White Sox RBI squad took home the Junior Division Championship (There are also Senior and Softball Divisions). Mo’ne and the Phillies RBI team didn’t make it all the way through - she was getting squeezed by the home plate ump - and this could be her last high profile foray into the sport given that she intends to pursue a basketball scholarship and play in the WNBA - but Mo’ne was still displaying the unruffled composure and ice water in her veins that got her and the Dragons into the LLWS.
Even cooler is the legacy she leaves behind. From July 27-31, the Baseball For All's 2017 National all-girl baseball tournament took place in Rockford, IL (Home of the Peaches!), and was the largest it’s ever been with 17 teams participating. Clearly, there’s an interest among girls to play this terrible sport we love. And according to MLB.com, Mo’ne’s coach Steve Bandura, who leads the baseball program for the South Philly Anderson Monarchs, the numbers are encouraging.
"We signed up probably 160 5- to 7-year-olds for baseball, and 20-25 of them were girls," said her coach Steve Bandura, who has been running the inner-city Anderson Monarchs baseball program for 20 years. "We also have two girls on our 10-and-under travel team. Mo'ne is an inspiration. And she has fun. That's the greatest thing about it."
Hopefully the WNBA career works out. But if things change, congratulations to 2027 Opening Day starter Mo’ne Davis.