PONY Baseball and Softball™ began with organization of the Pony League in Washington, PA in the summer of 1951. This was a transition league for 13-year-old and 14-year-old players designed to take graduates of Little League baseball from that diamond to the regulation size diamond. Growth of Pony League, primarily by word of mouth, was rapid, and by the end of the second season, 1952, the original six teams in Washington were joined by 505 others in 106 leagues around the country. A national tournament was conducted, and the first Pony League World Series was held that year.
Check out the highlights from the first-ever Pony League World Series
Lew Hays, among the founders of the Pony League, was named Commissioner of the new league when it was incorporated for national organization in early 1953 and held that post until 1964 when he was named president.
In 1953, John Laslo, long time Mayor of Martins Ferry, Ohio, visited with Hays and discussed organization of a league similar to Pony League for 15-year-old and 16-year-old players. The purpose was to permit players in this age bracket to compete with players of like experience in their first years on the regulation diamond.
Laslo guided the development of Colt League, and in late 1959, Pony League and Colt Leaguewere merged into a single organization.
Bronco League, for 11-year-old and 12-year-old players, was organized in 1961 to permit players of this age to play the complete game of baseball. With Colt League using the regulation diamond with 90 foot base paths, Pony League uses a diamond with 80 base paths as a transition between the regulation diamond and the 70 foot diamond used in Bronco League.
In 1970 the Mustang League was developed in Fort Worth, TX using a diamond with 60 foot base paths, to provide an organizational structure for leagues for beginning players, 9-and 10-year-olds. For communities using players of 7 and 8 years of age, rules and emblems were developed for Pinto League, a very elementary form of baseball.
Thorobred League was organized in the Tampa, FL area and became a part of the PONY Baseball family in 1973 to provide playing opportunity for those players from 17 through 20 years of age who have not entered professional play and who retain a desire to participate in a community baseball program.
In 1977, Thorobred League age limits were expanded to include 21-year-old age players, andPalomino League was organized for players 17 and 18. The Thorobred League was discontinued as a PONY program in 1984.
Shetland League, an instructional program for 5- and 6-year-olds, was formally adopted by PONY for the 1990 season with rules based on the experiences of a number of league organizations that had conducted play in this age group for several years.
While girls are permitted to play in any of the PONY Baseball leagues, recognizing that most girls preferred to compete in leagues with other girls, PONY Baseball provided Softball for Girls leagues in 1976. Colt League provides for girls 16-and-under and Bronco League for those 12-and-under. In communities where sufficient players are available, the Colt League may consist of players 15 and 16, and a Pony League used for those 13 and 14. Both Pony and Colt softball leagues used a regulation softball diamond with 60 foot base paths in fast pitch.
In like manner, if there are enough players, the Bronco League may be limited to players of 11 and 12 years of age and Mustang League used for those 10-and-under. These leagues for younger girls use a softball diamond with a 50 foot base path.
Older girls, 17 and 18, play in the Palomino League on the 65 foot diamond in slowpitch.
More than 500,000 players participate in the PONY organization annually.
Pony remains though emblems have changed with development of the program. The pony is still at the heart of it, even though the emblems that have represented PONY Baseball and Softballand its member leagues have undergone a number of changes since the program was founded in 1951.
Originally tied closely to the slogan, "Protect Our Nation's Youth", the first PONY emblem featured a silhouette of a rearing pony to symbolize the enthusiasm of youngsters 13 and 14 who had not yet reached physical maturity.
Gradually, the slogan around the top of the ball was dropped because it tended to complicate the manufacture of embroidered emblems, jewelry, decals and similar items. When the Pony GradsLeague was introduced in 1958, the simple addition of the word Grads outside and below the Pony emblem served for that league.
When Pony Grads and Colt were merged in late 1959, a common basic emblem was used containing the silhouette of the pony, which could also represent a colt. The names Pony Leagueand Colt League were used for a short time outside of the ball but again resulted in manufacturing problems. To solve this dilemma, the silhouette of the pony or colt was reduced in size, and the words Pony and Colt were placed inside the ball. The word baseball was increased in size to make it more readable.
In 1961 when the league for 11-year-old and 12-year-old players was added, it was known first asJunior Pony League, and the word Junior was added above and outside a Pony emblem.
About the same time, July, 1961, the corporate name was changed from Pony League Baseball, Inc. to Boys Baseball, Inc., and the Boys Baseball emblem was developed and the league emblems redesigned. For the first time, the ball was mounted on a replica of home plate with the plate shaded. Soon etching and embroidery problems resulted in a final change in the emblem design. The Boys Baseball emblem remained in the home plate shape, symbolic of the headquarters as the home of the program. The background shading was changed to a solid color.
Junior Pony League had become Bronco League and that emblem, along with the Pony andColt emblems, became diamonds instead of home plates. The league name was moved to the center of the ball; the word League replaced Baseball, and the Pony was again reduced in size and moved to the top of the ball. When Pinto, Mustang and Palomino were organized, the same league emblem was used with the new league names.
When the corporate name was again changed from Boys Baseball to PONY Baseball, Inc. in 1976, the familiar home plate emblem was retained and the words "Boys Baseball" were simply removed allowing the corporate emblem, the familiar pony on a baseball, to retain association with all of the member leagues, because the pony could be considered a pony, or a pinto, or mustang, or bronco, or colt or palomino.
In 1999 the emblems for all leagues were changed to a common emblem with a new pony head and the name of each league under it.
In 1979, to more readily identify the leagues with the age groups they serve, the word league was removed from the emblems and numbers representing the age group inserted.
With introduction of Girls Softball, it was decided to retain the same emblems for those leagues because the emblems do not contain the word baseball.
Fittingly, at the center of all of the emblems through all of the years has remained the pony, reminding us always of the basic purpose of the program, to Protect Our Nation's Youth.
The Name PONY Baseball Inc. is the corporate name under which Shetland League, Pinto League, Mustang League, Bronco League, Pony League, Colt League and Palomino League are operated in baseball and softball.
PONY is taken from the first letters of each word in the slogan, "Protect Our Nation's Youth."
Originally suggested by boys at the Y.M.C.A. in Washington, PA the slogan was "Protect Our Neighborhood Youth," and the change to "Nation's" youth was made after the original Washington Pony League developed into a national program.
The First President Joe E. Brown, comedian, acrobat, actor, a man whose career spanned the entertainment world from vaudeville and the silent movies, through the circus, fairs and carnivals to the Broadway stage and radio and television, became the first president of Pony League when the organization was incorporated in 1953. He continued in the post until late 1964 when he retired.
Brown on the history behind PONY's founding
A one-time minor league player, Brown was later part owner of the Kansas City Blues and in 1953 did pre-game and post-game radio interviews for the New York Yankees. He is the father of Joe L. Brown, former general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates and was instrumental in the settling of the Dodgers at Los Angeles after their move from Brooklyn.
Likable and gregarious, Joe traveled many thousands of miles visiting G.I.s in far sections of the globe during World War II and later traveled additional thousands of miles telling the story of PONY Baseball hoping to interest adults in organizing baseball programs for young people.
One of the group who founded the original Washington Pony League, and recognized as the principal founder of PONY Baseball/ Softball, Inc. as a national and international youth baseball organization, is Lewis W. Hays.
At the time of the founding of Pony League, Hays was sports editor of The Reporter newspaper, published by the Observer Publishing Company of Washington. Having served the office of Commissioner on a volunteers basis while holding down his regular duties as sports editor since 1951, he was granted a leave of absence by the Observer Company in 1954 to assume leadership of Pony League on a full time basis.
For thirty years, until his retirement in October 1980, Hays was the chief administrator of Pony League and later of PONY Baseball Inc. He served as Commissioner until 1964, when, following the retirement of Joe E. Brown, he became President.
Born near Butler, PA, Hays graduated from Butler High School and Muskingum College at New Concord, OH. He entered professional journalism at Brownsville, PA in 1938 moving to Washington in 1946.
A long time member of Kiwanis, Hays served the Washington Club as secretary for many years and is a past president of that club.
Hays has been a ruling elder in the United Presbyterian Church since age 28 and has held a number of positions in the Church of the Covenant in Washington, PA, the Washington Presbytery, the Synod of Pennsylvania-West Virginia and at the national level. He is a past moderator of both the Washington Presbytery and the Pennsylvania/West Virginia Synod.
The United States Baseball Federation, (now USA Baseball), an organization encompassing all amateur baseball in the United States, selected Hays as its Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1976 through 1993. In that position, he served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and helped to have baseball included as a sport in the Olympic Games.
Hays has been the recipient of the Christian Business Man of the Year award and Optimist Club Man of the Year award. He has received a Citizen's Citation and an Honorary Doctorate from Washington and Jefferson College in Washington PA, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Muskingum College, County of Washington Distinguished Citizen Award in 1981 and Knights of Columbus Special Award in 1981. He is also listed in Who's Who in America, and Who's Who in the World and in 1991, Hays was inducted into the Washington-Greene County chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
When he retired, Hays was elected to a life membership on the Board of Directors of PONY Baseball/Softball, Inc. Hays passed away in 1994.
Sporting a new name, but continuing its long time interest in the growth and development of young people, the GMP has underwritten the printing cost of this issue of the Blue Book.
The GMP was born in April 1988, with the merger of the GPPAW and the International Molders Union. The new union is known as the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union (AFLCIO, CLC).
James E. Hatfield, International President of the new union and who served as International President of the GPPAW, has maintained the organization's strong support of young people through PONY Baseball/Softball, Inc.
An organization of men and women employed in the glass, molders, fiberglass, pottery and allied industries, the GMP is a recognized friend of young people continuing the tradition established by its predecessor, the GPPAW. The organization underwrote printing costs for the first Pony League rule books, has underwritten costs of the Blue Book since the first edition in 1958, and has supported the growth and development of PONY Baseball/Softball in many other ways.
Lee W. Minton, former President of the GBBA and a founder of Pony League, and his successor as GBBA President Newton W. Black, have both served on the PONY Baseball/Softball Board of Directors. Harry L. Moore, recently retired as Director of Field Services for the GMP, and was a member of the PONY Board.
Various firms and associations within the sporting goods manufacturing and sales industry, the office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and numerous other firms, organizations and individuals have contributed to the growth and development of PONY Baseball/Softball, and to the young people the program serves, through the years. Most have served without monetary compensation in any form and many with little or no recognition of their contribution. Many have now passed from this life.
To all of these, and to the thousands who continue to serve, we offer this thought:
Many names and many deeds go unrecorded in minutes of meetings and reports of activities, but they are engraved on the hearts of those young people who benefit from the time, the effort, the talent you have given to them through PONY Baseball/Softball.