Jackie Robinson West Little League Scandal Chronicled in ‘One Golden Summer’ Documentary (EXCLUSIVE)

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The story of the 2014 Jackie Robinson West little league baseball team’s championship run and subsequent downfall will be chronicled in the feature-length documentary “One Golden Summer.”
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The all-Black team from Chicago’s South Side defied expectations to win the U.S. Little League Championship, going on to face the baseball team from Seoul, South Korea, for the world title. Along the way, the team of 13 12-year-olds inspired their city and won millions of fans across the country, becoming heroic role models to Black youth. The Jackie Robinson West (JRW) team was celebrated with a ticker tape parade in Chicago, national news coverage and a trip to the White House to meet President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

However, things took a turn when a rival coach accused Jackie Robinson West of breaking boundary rules. Though JRW coaches and local officials denied any wrongdoing, and Little League International initially agreed, the governing body eventually stripped the team of its championship. While the controversy resulted in seven years of litigation in federal court, the young players were branded cheaters and left to pick up the pieces themselves.

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In the documentary, the JRW players, now young men, will discuss navigating that rollercoaster experience in their own words. Coach Darold Butler will also exclusively tell his story, as the film aims to uncover the truth behind what really happened through interviews with people involved in all facets of the tale.

The documentary, which is now in production, is directed by Kevin Shaw (“Let the Little Light Shine,” “America to Me,” “City So Real”).

“We are living in an age of trial by Twitter and the players deserve to have their true story told — the truth that lies within each of these remarkable young men,” Shaw said in a statement. “They’ll help us see what really makes a winner — not just runs on a scoreboard but the inner strength to triumph after personal, and very public setbacks. These guys are true champions.”

“One Golden Summer” is produced by Robert Teitel (“The Hate U Give,” the “Barbershop” franchise, “Men of Honor”) and Betsy Steinberg (former executive director/executive producer of Kartemquin Films). Executive producers are Danny Zamost and Alex Pissios.

“I followed the team, game by game, throughout the 2014 season and beyond as they were handed heartbreak,” said Teitel. “This story transcends sports, it’s bigger than Chicago. It’s about lost innocence, and what it takes to survive.”

Added Steinberg: “At its core, ‘One Golden Summer’ is about the strength of family — parents, kids, siblings — and the family formed on the baseball field — which is what makes it such a universal story.”

Producers plan to release the independently financed feature in 2023.

Director Kevin Shaw; Members of the 2014 Jackie Robinson Little League team with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. - Credit: Courtesy of Subject / AP Images
Director Kevin Shaw; Members of the 2014 Jackie Robinson Little League team with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. - Credit: Courtesy of Subject / AP Images

Courtesy of Subject / AP Images

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