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The Grand Rapids Sullivans were based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and started in 1953 by local businessman and former scout for the Detroit Tigers, Bob Sullivan. The team played in every NBC World Series tournament from 1955 to 1987, winning four championship titles. 

The Sullivans earned their first NBC World Series title in 1960 in a come-from-behind win over the Ponchatoula Athletics, overcoming a three run deficit in the final inning of the game. Sullivan shared All-American honors for the top manager of the tournament that year with Ponchatoula’s Matt Batts. 

A decade later the Sullivans earned their next NBC World Series title in 1970, and then back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984. All three years Bob Sullivan was named the top manager of the tournament. In the Sullivans’ final championship tournament, second baseman Billy Bates earned MVP honors. Bates went on to play in the MLB with Milwaukee and Cincinnati, winning a World Series with the Reds in 1990. Bates was one of dozens of professional baseball players associated with the Sullivans. 

The Sullivans played in Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands from the mid-1960’s through the late 1990’s, winning the tournament five times. The team made their final appearance in the NBC World Series in 1991. 

At the time, the Sullivans called Valley Field in Grand Rapids their home. The field is in the heart of a residential neighborhood on the city’s west side, and hidden by lush trees, but after the Sullivans disbanded, the field fell to disrepair. A 2019 effort initiated a restoration project of the historic field, renaming the field after the legendary team, Sullivan Field. 

The restoration project is still underway. Sullivan continues to leave his mark on Grand Rapids and the baseball community including with an annual scholarship for baseball players at Grand Rapids Community College.

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