No question can be raised about the popularity of the softball game in different countries of the world in the present time. Thousands of young boys and girls now participate in this game from their schools. It is often believed by many that the game was invented from baseball. While this may be true to some extent but the ancient records are pointing out to somewhere else. According to the history of softball, the game originally came from a football game.
The invention of the game
It was the Thanksgiving Day in the year 1887, and a close football match was being held between Yale and Harvard. All the alumni were present there in the field and were anxiously waiting for the results. Once the Yale was declared as the winner, a young alumnus of Yale thrown a boxing glove to a Harvard player and he then hit the glove hard to change the direction with a broom handle instead of a bat since there was no bat at that time. The reporter George Hancock from the Chicago Board of Trade named the incident as “Play Ball”. And this is how the first ever concept of softball came in the picture.
However, that only incident was not the end of the show. The reporter George Hancock was not quite satisfied with that one shot. He thought that this could well become a game and that night he played the game with that boxing glove, a broom handle and with some lines drawn on the field by chalk. This is how the game began which later went on to become one of the popular games and it soon spread all around Chicago like wild fire. And it is also believed that the first rule book of the game was issued by the reporter himself in 1889.
Official recognition of the term “Softball”
The craze surrounding the game was growing high and considering the hype the Farragut Boat Club decided to create their own set of rules. By this time the game became popular outside Chicago and also around the Midwestern U.S. It took the next decade for the game of softball to properly shape up. During this time, the game was called in different names like “indoor baseball,” “kitten ball,” “mush ball,” “diamond ball” etc. It took more than four decades for the game to find its official name. Walter Hakanson was the person to first come up with this name in 1926 in National Re-creation Congress meeting. And the term got its official recognition in 1930.
Amateur Softball Association
The popularity of the game was increasing rapidly and different leagues were being formed for the promotion and more growth of the game. A group of people aged 75 years and more was formed in 1931 especially to promote the game with the message that it can be played by anybody. They used to travel in different places playing the game. Two years after that, in 1933, the first ever national softball tournament took place in association with Chicago’s World Fair. And after that the Amateur Softball Association was formed with the help of Leo Fischer.
The standard softball size
After the invention and so much popularity of the game, the problem arises with the standard rules of the game. Up until that period there were no specific rules for the game. Different people were playing the game according to their set of rules. There were no specific player position, ball size, player number. The ball that was used in the Farragut Boat Club game was 16 inches in circumference. On the other hand, in the Firefighter Minneapolis game, Lewis Rober Sr. used a 12 inches circumference ball. Later the 12 inches ball size became the standard size of softball. And even in today’s matches the game is played with 10 to 12 inch ball size.
International Softball Federation
It is believed by many that the game was actually developed as an indoor game for the baseball players in order to maintain the agility during their off season. But with time it gained huge popularity and acceptance among the people that it went on to become an official sport itself. In the year 1991, women’s fast pitch softball was selected for the 1996 Summer Olympics. This was a very huge recognition for the game and is still regarded as a landmark for the game by many people. Though, it was pretty unfortunate when the game was cancelled from Summer Olympics in 2012. However, the game is still considered as one of the preferred games in the world and is played in 113 countries other than US and these countries have joined the International Softball Federation ever since the formation of the organization in 1952.
National Softball Week
In the year 1951, the first ever National Softball Week was declared during July 22 to 28th. In the same year, the first ever female of the game was introduced through Madeline Lorton. She was only 25 and was from Bronx in NY. During this time the game was spreading across the world. The first ever meeting of the International Softball Federation was held in this year. This organization would govern the game around the world.
According to the official rules of the game developed by the International Softball Federation, there are nine players in each side on the field. There are one pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, short stop, and three outfielders. In the slow-pitch softball, there is a fourth outfielder allowed in the game. The team which will score more runs after the end of the seventh inning will be declared as the winner. Extra innings will be played if the game is a tie.
The first ever World Championship was organized in 1965. In this world cup five countries participated and the game was organized in Australia. One year later the men’s championship was played in Mexico. In the year 1981, the first junior men and women championship was played and men’s slow pitch championship was first played in 1987.
So, this was the brief history of softball. It has come a long way over the decades and the game has flourished with time. More and more people both boys and girls have accepted this game whole heartedly.