The children of Milwaukee’s inner city had few recreational opportunities in 1963. Young people were run off of baseball diamonds by adult teams who had reserved the fields. Young people began asking Reverend E. B. Philips of Greater Galilee Baptist Church to have an adult reserve the fields for them. Reverend Philips turned to Church member James Beckum, a former Negro Leaguer and well-known ballplayer in Milwaukee County’s adult leagues, to reserve the fields.

It was thus that, with Reverend Philips’s encouragement, James Beckum embarked on his youth baseball journey. James had extensive knowledge of the game of baseball , but little background in youth sports. Mr. Beckum contacted the YMCA and the MPS Yesterday League before settling on Little League Baseball. The idea of competing in the Little League World Series excited and challenged the community.

Beckum Little League began on shaky legs in 1964.  Four Milwaukee churches sponsored teams to start the league. Greater Galilee Baptist, New Hope Baptist, Incarnation Lutheran, and St. Mark’s AME were the pioneers of Beckum Stapleton Little League Baseball.

In 1965 the Stapleton league began. The league was named after James Beckum’s County league manager, Chuck Stapleton, who volunteered as a safety officer. The Beckum and Stapleton leagues received their first charter from International Little League in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Metropolitan Baptist church and the Barbershop Association joined as sponsors. The addition of two teams without sponsors made eight teams in 1965.

The Parmalee League was stated in 1966. With an additional league, the teams totaled twelve. The Parmalee League only lasted a few years, due to staffing problems. Beckum and Stapleton absorbed the Parmalee teams to comprise six teams in each league.

A Senior League for 13 to 15 year-old youth was added, with eight teams. Then a Big League team for 16 to 18 year old youth was formed. The Big League team played other teams in the district like Northwest, Greendale and Whitefish Bay. This structure of twenty one teams for Little League lasted into the 1990’s.

Competitive tournament teams have been a staple of Beckum Stapleton Little League over the years. In 1967 our majors team lost in the district finals. In 1976 the Seniors team won district and state tournaments and played in the Nebraska Regional. The 1985 team, coached by Robert Johnson, won district and played in the state tournament. Under Manager Nate Hall the 1992, Seniors won district and state tournaments. The team played in the regional tournament in Iowa.

The Beckum Big League, under coach James Hank,s went all the way to the Nebraska regional in 1979. After that the big league participated on the Wisconsin District 1 team. Coaches Charles Coleman (1986) and Lee Bullock (1993) coached district teams in the Grand Rapids, Michigan regional.

Originally Beckum-Stapleton Little League games were played on fields all over the north side of Milwaukee. Games were played at Auer Avenue School and Lincoln, Washington, Johnson, and Garfield Parks. Finally with County Supervisor Clinton Rose’s help, Beckum-Stapleton moved to its present home at Carver Park. Field Three had lights and dug outs. Field Four started out as an unfenced field. Fences, lights, bull pens, and a scoreboard were added later. In the 1980’s Tee Ball was added on field 2. Diamond 1 was converted from softball to baseball field in 1990. The James W. Beckum indoor practice facility was opened in 2002. In 2004 a new field opened for minor league pitching machine and in 2005 the Tee Ball field was added. Today, all age groups play at Carver Park.

The Beckum-Stapleton Woman’s Auxiliary has supported the league from the beginning. The first President of the Woman’s Auxiliary was Delores Hathaway. The current president, Mrs. Naomi Walker, has served in this role since 1978. The Woman’s Auxiliary has run the picnic, Awards Night Banquet, Registration, and other league activities. The annual picnic started at Lincoln park, and later moved to Carver Park. The annual banquet was originally held at Greater Galilee Baptist Church. Later the banquet was held at Andrew Douglass Academy. Today, the banquet has transformed into an Awards Night. The Woman’s Auxiliary also has developed the Carver Park concession stand into best concession stand in Milwaukee.

The leadership of Beckum-Stapleton Little Leage has changed over the last forty-plus seasons. Past Beckum Stapleton Little League presidents include James Beckum, Gary Henning, Henry Small, George Slade, Jerry Beckum, Billy Prince, and Lafayette Golden. Jim Brey has served as President since 1998.

Many men and women played other various roles over the years in the administration of the Beckum-Stapleton Little League. When one thinks of Beckum-Stapleton Little League Player agents, Henry Small comes to mind. Others helping out in the role were Jones Sewel, Robert Bass, Bob Hollis, Barbara Hayes, and Albert Tunstall. Scorekeepers that stood out over the years were Ora Pointer and Rich Beisser. Many board members have also contributed to the league. Norma Freeman as Treasurer and Barbara White as Public Relations Officer have served for many years. Fundraisers from Erlene Forester to Victoria Dorsey have made sure that the league remains viable.

There are great stories of coaches, too numerous to mention. In Little League, Bill Grahams (Jets and Cubs) and Leon Walker (Zembo Braves) often competed in the championship game. In the senior league, coaches Orville Beene (Astros), Hugh Armstrong (Yankees), Nate Hall (Angels), and Ed Strong (Tigers) won many championships.

But what has made Beckum-Stapleton Little League great is the players. Participating in supervised play, “off the streets,” has met Reverend Philips’s original goals. With the discipline and team skills they learned in little league, many players went on to play sports in high school, college, and even at the professional level. Many others have gone on to use these life skills and a love for sports and sportsmanship in recreational baseball and softball. All players have had the chance to improve themselves and have fun, thanks to James Beckum and all the volunteers and contributors for over the last forty years.

Beckum-Stapleton has big plans for the next forty years.  Contact us for information on how you can get involved today.


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  8. floyd purdy jr Says:

    As a former member of the New Hope Jets, you taught me so much about life, and the game of baseball.
    I was one of the kids in that congregation at the Greater Galilee Baptist Church where the late Rev Ernest Blake Phillips was pastor. And to the Beckum family you are still in the Purdy family prayers.
    Thanks for the opportunity, my hat’s off to you all !

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