Who Invented Softball? The Unexpected Origin

By Daniel | Softball

Nov 25
Who Invented Softball?

There’s a thought around the origin of softball in which many people believe that this sport came from a variation of one of the best sports in the world: baseball. But this is a wrong fact; this game was actually created by mistake, on a football game, back in 1887.

The story behind the origin of this sport is a really interesting one, on a football game between Yale and Harvard in the Farragut Boat Club. This was a Thanksgiving Day, in 1887 when a group of about two dozens of young men was watching the football game.

When Yale finally won the match, one of the men who was watching the game threw a boxing glove at a guy who unexpectedly had a pole on his hands – so he hit the boxing glove with it and the glove traveled a great distance by air.

This was the first time someone hit a “soft” ball with a bat-like object and it was so interesting that a guy who was watching this match thought about creating a new game – softball!

The Guy Who Created It By Mistake

Who invented Softball - 1
Who invented Softball - 1

George Hancock, who is believed to be the creator of this wonderful sport, was so astonished by how the boxing glove flew into the air after being hit with a pole that he decided to create a game by his own.

Hancock who was a reporter working for the Chicago Board of Trade at the time and was a spectator on the game, yelled “Play Ball!” after the guy hit the glove, people found this funny and started to play with the boxing glove and a pole on the football field after the match ended.

George Hancock

George Hancock

Hancock found this situation very amusing and interesting, to the level that a few days later he tied a boxing glove to make it look like a ball and developed a small bat similar to the one used in baseball.

Hancock drew a diamond-like figure on a gym floor, resembling a baseball field but smaller. He invited some people to play using the tied glove as a ball and a broomstick as a bat. At this moment, the first game of softball was played.

How Softball Got Its Name

Who invented Softball - 2

In 1889, because of the great excitement this game caused in people from Toronto were already playing the game regularly. So, the Farragut Boat Club decided to create a set of rules and one year later it was officially known as a sport with its own league.

The game was eventually leaked out of the city and by the next years it was being played all around the Midwestern US under the name of “indoor baseball”. However, due to the complexity of the game, it has several variations on how it was finally be called.

The sport was named “Kittenball” in 1900, when a guy called Lewis Rober who was a lieutenant of the Minneapolis fire department, created a team with his colleague named “Kittens”. This name was used for several years and traveled around the country.

However, the game was finally named “softball” when Walter Hakanson made the remark in 1926 in a National Recreation Congress Meeting, representing the YMCA team. This term stuck until 1930 and was eventually made official – softball.

How Softball Got Its Rules

Who invented Softball - 3

After the game was named softball, in 1934 the Joint Rules Committee created ASA (Amateur Softball Association) who later collaborated together to develop a new set of official rules for the game.

Using different sets of rules, from the game which was played on the street and in official fields, the game was developed and its rules were created following different rules and positions of the players.

The official ball that was used was created following Lewis Rober measurements which were 12-inches of circumference apart from the one use in the Farragut Club that was 16-inches. However, many people still believed that the game was better played with a 16-inches ball.

A lot of matches were held using the 12-inch ball and rules settled by the ASA but in Chicago people were still using a different set of rules and a 16-inches ball. Some games were played indoor and others in a field similar to the baseball one.

Softball As An Official Sport

Softball as an Official Sport

This game was being used by baseball players as a kind of training game to maintain their form between games and during summer breaks. However, this game was so popular in the country that it was eventually transformed into an official sport.

Its popularity was so great, that in 1991 the game was added to the Olympics as fast-pitched Softball for women. This was one of the great assets of the sport and how many people around the world started playing it.

Even though this sport was dropped from the Olympics in London 2012, it kept being one of the most played games in the United States since 1952 when this game got its own federation. Right now, this sport is played in more than 100 countries around the world.

Softball Nowadays

Being really popular since its creation more than one hundred years ago, this game has passed through difficult and interesting moments. Right now, this game is even more popular than ever, to the point where around 40 million Americans played at least one softball match in a year.

This looks like is not much, but being a game that can be played with a different set of rules and in a different kind of field, more and more people from different backgrounds and ages are playing it year by year.

Leagues that are created for this game are often mixed sexes tournaments that let women and men play in the same match but with a different set of rules, in order to minimize the physical inequalities and to make it more fun.

Same Old Sport

Even when this sport has passed through different changes and modifications from the day it was created in 1887, it is still being developed and will keep being one of the best sport ever created by mankind.

With a great fan base and more than 1 billion players around the world, this great game won’t cease to exist - or at least not soon.

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