Five years ago today sparked the beginning of the Summer of Mo’Ne – one of the biggest sports stories of all time.
On this date in 2014, Mo’Ne Davis became the first female to win a game in the Little League World Series, pitching a complete game shutout to defeat South Nashville, 4-0. Armed with a 70-plus mph fastball and a wicked curve, the 13-year-old righthander threw six innings of two-hit, eight-strikeout baseball to lead the Taney Little League Dragons of Philadelphia to an opening-round victory in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Mo’Ne mowed down the boys. Facing a lineup of All-Stars, she gave up only two hits, neither of which left the infield. By the fifth inning, the Nashville pitcher had reached the 85-pitch Little League limit and had to be removed from the mound. Meanwhile, Davis had only thrown 44 pitches. She struck out the side in the sixth to complete the shutout and get the win. Displaying superb mechanics, Davis was incredibly efficient, throwing only 70 pitches while issuing zero walks.
Mo’Ne was just like a rock star, or a Brazilian soccer player – she only needed one name to be recognized.
The game established several “firsts.” Mo’Ne became the first girl to win a Little League World Series game as a pitcher and the first female to toss a shutout in Little League postseason history. Taney was the first-ever team from Philadelphia to qualify for the LLWS and Mo’Ne Davis was the first African-American girl to play in the LLWS. Paul Graziano, who had been the LLWS press box announcer for 34 years, said Mo’Ne brought a level of excitement to the tournament that he’d never seen.
In 2008, Steve Bandura, program director for a recreation center in South Philadelphia, noticed seven-year-old Mo’Ne Davis playing football with some older boys. “She was throwing perfect spirals,” recalled Bandura, “running these tough kids down and tackling them.” Bandura invited her to basketball practice. Davis – who was the only girl on the team – quickly became its best player. Soon after, Mo’Ne began playing baseball and soccer with the boys.
After tossing a three-hit, 8-0 shutout over Newark [Delaware] National to capture the Mid-Atlantic Region title and propel Taney into the Little League World Series, Mo became just the fourth American girl and 18th overall to play in the tournament since its inception in 1947. She was also the sixth girl in LLWS history to get a hit. Davis became the most talked-about baseball player on Earth. She rocketed to stardom in what was the biggest sports story of the year.
Her performance against Nashville set off Mo’Ne Mania. League MVPs Mike Trout and Kevin Durant sent her congratulatory messages. Davis received words of encouragement from the President and First Lady and appeared on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer for five straight days. Her games drew record ratings for ESPN. Four days after her record-setting performance, the rising eighth-grader became the first Little League baseball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a little leaguer.
Mo’Ne was just a kid. A normal 13-year old kid. She was very friendly, very respectful, and just as shy and the 13-year-old you’d expect her to be.
Time named Davis one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014.” SI Kids named her “SportsKid of the Year.” Spike Lee directed and produced a mini-documentary titled I Throw Like A Girl. Mo’Ne received an ESPY as “Best Breakthrough Athlete,” played basketball with the Globetrotters, and got to throw out the first pitch before Game 4 of the 2014 World Series.
Davis came to be considered royalty in Williamsport, which is about 175 miles northwest of her hometown of Philadelphia. Her rise to stardom was meteoric, yet it was her humility that left the most lasting impression. Since that famous game five years ago today, fans have sought out Mo for her autograph or a selfie. She always accommodates them.
One year after hurling her way into the annals of the Little League World Series and the hearts of the sports world as a pitcher for the Taney Dragons, Davis enrolled at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Founded in 1861, SCH is a college prep high school located ten miles outside of downtown Philly. Continuing her commitment to remaining a multi-sport athlete, Mo’Ne played soccer, basketball and softball for the Blue Devils.
She doesn’t back down. There’s no fear. – Steve Bandura
This past June, Mo’ne Davis graduated from Springside Chestnut Hill, then celebrated her 18th birthday. On Monday, August 26, the girl who once mowed down the boys begins classes as a freshman at Hampton, a private, historically black university located in southeast Virginia. Davis chose Hampton over Bethune-Cookman, Southern University, Coppin State, and Penn.
Davis plans to study journalism at Hampton, then has dreams of becoming a broadcaster. A 5’4” shortstop, Mo’Ne has announced she will play softball at Hampton, a Division I program and member of the Big South Conference. “The campus is beautiful,” said Davis after visiting the 3,800-student school. “The girls on the team are amazing. The coaches are amazing. It just felt like home.”
Mo’Ne Davis’ Taney Dragons jersey is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. In April 2015, her performance at the LLWS was named one of “The 8 Greatest Moments for Women in Sports,” a list which included Nadia Comaneci’s perfect score on uneven bars at the 1976 Olympics, Diana Nyad’s 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida, and Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs in their 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match.
Postscript. Two days after their historic win over Nashville, the Taney Little League team from Pennsylvania took down the Southwest Region champion squad from Texas to go to 2-0 in the double-elimination LLWS tournament. Mo’Ne Davis was eligible to pitch again August 20, when Pennsylvania faced Nevada. Her second outing in South Williamsport did not go as smoothly as the first, as Mo gave up three earned runs, including a two-run homer in the second inning. The record-setting righthander struck out six and walked one in 2.1 innings of work and was charged with the loss. The Dragons were eliminated the next day by Jackie Robinson West Little League of Chicago. Jackie Robinson West advanced to the championship game, where they lost to Seoul, South Korea. In February 2015, Jackie Robinson West’s wins were vacated after it was found that the team used ineligible players from outside their district boundaries.