ALL ABOUT SOFTBALL

THE RULES AND SHORT HISTORY OF SOFTBALL

Softball was created inside the Farragut Boat Club on a wintry, blustery day in November, 1887, in Chicago, IL. A group of Harvard and Yale alumni anxiously awaited the results of the Yale-Harvard football game, and when the news came through that Yale had defeated Harvard, 17-8, one Yale supporter, overcome with emotion, picked up an discarded boxing glove and threw it at a nearby Harvard alumni, who promptly tried to hit it back with a stick.

This gave George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, an idea. He suggested a game of indoor baseball. Naturally, Hancock’s friends thought he was talking about playing a game outdoors, not indoors. Using what was available, he tied together the laces of the boxing glove for a ball. Hancock marked off a home plate, bases and a pitcher’s box inside the Farragut Boat Club gymnasium and then divided the 2 groups divided into teams. The final score of the game was 41-40, but what was significant was that Hancock and his friends had invented a sport that would continue to grow in popularity to where today more than forty million people play it each summer.

Softball is now the No. one team participant sport in the USA. Hancock’s game eventually caught on in Chicago with the Farragut team challenging other gymnasiums to matches. In the spring, Hancock took his game outdoors and played it on fields not large enough for baseball. It was called indoor-outdoor and Hancock emerged as the recognized authority in the 19th century.

Hancock devised nineteen special rules to adapt the outdoor game to the indoor format, and the rules were officially adopted by the Mid Winter Indoor Baseball League of Chicago in 1889. Hancock’s game gradually spread throughout the country and ultimately flourished in Minneapolis, thanks to the ingenuity and efforts of Lewis Rober, a Minneapolis Fire Department lieutenant, who wanted a game to keep his firemen fit during their idle time.

They used a vacant lot beside to the fire-station, Rober laid out bases with a pitching distance of 35 feet. His ball was a small sized medicine ball with the bat two inches in diameter.

The game became popular almost overnight and other fire companies began to play. In 1895, Rober transferred to another fire company and organized a team he called the Kittens. George Kehoe, captain of Truck Company No. one, named Rober’s version of softball “Kitten League Ball” in the summer of 1900. It was later shortened to “Kitten Ball.”

Rober’s game was known as Kitten Ball until 1925, when the Minneapolis Park Board changed it to Diamond Ball, one of a 6 names used during this time for softball. The name softball didn’t come about until 1926 when Walter Hakanson, a YMCA official from Denver suggested it to the International Joint Rules Committee.

Hakanson had devised the name in 1926. Efforts to organize softball on a national basis didn’t eventuate until 1933, when Leo Fischer and Michael J. Pauley, a Chicago Sporting goods salesman, conceived the idea of organizing 1000’s of local softball teams in America into cohesive state organizations and then a national organization.

To bring the teams together, Pauley and Fischer invited them to compete in a tournament in conjunction with the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. With the backing of the Chicago American newspaper, Fischer and Pauley invited fifty five teams to compete in the tournament. Teams were divided into 3 classes – fastballers, slow pitch and women. A 14-inch ball was used during the single-elimination event.


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