full screen background image

History of Softball

Softball originated in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, 1887. A group of about twenty young men had gathered in the gymnasium of the Farragut Boat Club in order to hear the outcome of the Harvard-Yale football game. After Yale's victory was announced and bets were paid off, a man picked up a stray boxing glove and threw it at someone, who hit it with a pole. George Hancock, usually considered the inventor of softball, shouted, "Let's play ball!" He tied the boxing glove so that it resembled a ball, chalked out a diamond on the floor (smaller dimensions than those of a baseball field in order to fit the gym) and broke off a broom handle to serve as a bat. What proceeded was an odd, smaller version of baseball. That game is now known as the first softball game. In one week, he created an oversized ball and an undersized rubber-tipped bat and went back to the gym to paint permanent white foul lines on the floor. After he wrote new rules and named the sport indoor baseball, a more organized, yet still new, game was played.

Hancock's original game of indoor baseball quickly caught on in popularity, becoming international with the formation of a league in Toronto. That year, 1897, was also the premiere publication of the Indoor Baseball Guide. This was the first nationally distributed publication on the new game and it lasted a decade. In the spring of 1888, Hancock's game moved outdoors. It was played on a small diamond and called indoor-outdoor. Due to the sport's mass appeal, Hancock published his first set of indoor-outdoor rules in 1889.

While Chicago was definitely softball's birthplace, the game saw some modification in Minneapolis. The year was 1895 when Lewis Rober, Sr., (a fire department officer) needed an activity to keep his men occupied and in shape during their free time. He created his game to fit the confines of a vacant lot next to the firehouse and the result was instantly appealing. Surprisingly, Rober was probably not familiar with Hancock's version of the sport because it was still concentrated in Chicago at that time. The following year, 1896, Rober was moved to a new unit with a new team to manage. In honor of this group's name, the Kittens, the game was termed Kitten League Ball in 1900. The name was later shortened to kitten ball.

As baseball became much more popular the male players shifted to it while the women began to make softball there own. Now a day’s both men and women of all ages can enjoy the sport.

Throughout the 1900’s leagues and tournaments began to pop up everywhere. The National Championship was first played in Chicago in 1933 and it included both male and female competitors. The sixties and seventies saw professional leagues come and go for women. The slow pitch game evolved on the international level with the Softball World Championships in 1965. It ultimately set the platform for the Olympics which greatly improved softball history. The officials and high ranking decision makers of the leagues around the world began to make a shift to fast pitch softball beginning around the 1980’s and 90’s.

Fast pitch has altered the appearance of the game dramatically. The sport is much more a game of speed and defense rather than offense and power and it has also produced much more media coverage and growth in the sport than ever.

The popularity of softball (both fastpitch & slow pitch) has grown steadily since then. The unexplainable love and passion for softball has allowed the sport to grow, develop, and maintain universal appeal throughout time. For more than 120 years, softball, "a game for everyone," has united people with a mysterious feeling.