The Evolution of Softball

The first softball game ever to be played was on Thanksgiving Day in the year 1887. After a football game between Yale and Harvard-specifically during the paying of bets-a man from Yale threw a boxing glove at the Harvard grads, one of whom hit the glove with a broom handle-giving rise to the game of softball.

Initially an indoor game

George Hancock, one of the Harvard and Yale alumni, tied a boxing glove into the form of a softball and proceeded to draw a softball diamond with a chalk on the floor of the boat club. Since the glove-turned-softball was soft, the players did not as yet wear gloves. Thus came about the first softball game which ended with a score of 41-40.

Shortly thereafter, Hancock wrote down the rules for the softball game and came up with a softball and rubber-tipped bat. He even marked permanent foul lines on the floor of the boat club.

Soon became an outdoor sport

Softball went on to become one of the favorite sports during that winter in Chicago. The new sport became a way for baseball players to keep practicing even during the winter season. Way past the winter season, softball was taken outdoors where it was played out in fields that are much smaller than baseball diamonds.

The evolution and development of softball, however, was credited to a fire marshall named Lewis Rober. Rober used the relatively new sport to keep his Minneapolis firemen from getting bored while waiting for fire calls.

On a lot adjacent to the fire station, Lewis Rober marked a softball field where the firemen whiled away their time playing the sport. Rober soon found that the larger and softer balls coupled with the smaller fields created a sport which had more offense and more action compared to baseball. He made it a rule to limit the game to seven innings so as to enable the game to be completed in an hour.

Very soon, softball games were staged between firehouses, drawing as many as 3,000 spectators and leading to a mushrooming of softball games in parks and playgrounds all over the city. By the year 1913, softball was officially adopted as a sport by the Minneapolis Park Board.

Became an international sport

The game spread from Chicago to Milwaukee and then to the Midwest and Canada. Different places had slightly different rules and implements. For instance, the game was called in other places by other names such as cabbage ball, pumpkin ball or mush ball. It was only in 1926 that the name softball was set as the official name of the sport.

It was only in the year 1933 that the rules of softball were standardized by the Amateur Softball Association. The sizes of the ball and of the field as well as the distances between the bases were set. The fast pitch and the slow pitch softball games were also defined.

As to softball attire, the early years of softball had players wearing sweater and pants. Today, softball players wear nylon shirts with undershirts, pants, softball cleats and softball socks. Ball caps are mandatory for fast-pitch male leagues. Metal spikes on softball cleats are prohibited.

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