WITH the major leagues on strike, the last guaranteed opportunity to see a baseball World Series this year may be in Williamsport, Pa. The 48th Little League world championship takes place there next week.
The Little Leaguers won't have the baseball stage to themselves (minor-league teams play on), but they certainly stand to attract more national and international attention than usual. ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 may find more viewers tuning in to their game telecasts. ABC will carry the championship game (Aug. 27) live on its weekly ``Wide World of Sports'' show, beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
The Little League World Series is not without its overzealous parents and controversies (the Philippine team, for instance, was stripped of its title two years ago for using overage players). On the whole, however, the Series offers a window on the refreshingly uncomplicated environment in which many youngsters first experience competitive baseball. Yet it does so in a global fashion unmatched by the big leagues.
The Series brings together eight teams, four US regional winners and four international regional champions representing Canada, Latin America, Europe, and the Far East. (The final teams in the playoffs were still to be announced at press time.)
Before the Series begins, more than 7,000 teams will have played 12,500 games in a six-week playoff that has been called the largest elimination tournament in the world. Little League officials, in fact, boast that it would take Major League Baseball six full seasons to equal the Little League tournament schedule.
The competing teams are actually local league all-star squads of 11- and 12-year-olds. No league is obligated to participate, but a majority do.
The national teams that advance to the World Series square off in round-robin play, as do the international teams, with the winners of each group meeting in a single, six-inning championship game.
All games are played at 9,000-seat Lamade Stadium, the centerpiece of the 42-acre Little League headquarters complex. Estimated total attendance for last year's championship game, in which Long Beach, Calif., defended its title, was 40,000 spectators, including thousands on a hillside beyond the outfield fence.