was invented inside the Farragut Boat Club on a blustery, winter day
in November, 1887, in Chicago, IL. A bunch of Yale and Harvard alumni
anxiously awaited the results of the Harvard-Yale football game, and
when the news came that Yale had defeated Harvard, 17-8, one Yale
supporter, overcome with enthusiasm, picked up an old 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.
kidding, however. Using what was available, he tied together the laces
of the boxing glove for a ball. Using a piece of chalk, Hancock marked
off a home plate, bases and a pitcher's box inside the Farragut Boat
Club gym, with the two 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 40 million people enjoy playing it each summer,
making softball the No. 1 team participant sport in the United States.
Hancock's invention eventually caught on in Chicago with the Farragut
team challenging other gyms to games. 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.
19 special rules to adapt the outdoor game to the indoor game, 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
efforts and ingenuity of Lewis Rober, a Minneapolis Fire Department
lieutenant, who wanted a game to keep his firemen fit during their
idle time. Using a vacant lot adjacent to the firehouse, 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 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.
1, 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 half dozen names used during this time
for softball. The name softball didn't come about until 1926 when
Walter Hakanson, a Denver YMCA official suggested it to the International
Joint Rules Committee. Hakanson had come up with the name in 1926.
Efforts to organize softball on a national basis didn't materialize
until 1933, when Leo Fischer and Michael J. Pauley, a Chicago Sporting
goods salesman, conceived the idea of organizing thousands of local
softball teams in America into cohesive state organizations, and state
organizations into a national organization.
To bring the teams
together, Fischer and Pauley invited them to participate in a tournament
in conjunction with the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. With the backing
of the Chicago American newspaper, Pauley and Fischer invited 55 teams
to participate in the tournament. Teams were divided into three classes
- fastballers, slow pitch and women. A 14-inch ball was used during
the single-elimination event.
During the 1934
National Recreation Congress, membership on the Joint Rules Committee
was expanded to add the Amateur Softball Association (ASA). Until
the formation of the ASA, softball was in a state of confusion, especially
in the rules area where the length of the bases and pitcher's box
were constantly being changed.
of the ASA gave softball the solidarity and foundation it needed to
grow and develop throughout the U.S. under the network of associations
proposed by Fischer and Pauley. Pauley and Fischer visited many of
the states, inviting teams to participate in the tournament. Fischer
and his sports promotion director, Harry Wilson, sold the Century
of Progress Exposition on the idea of sponsoring the tournament and
providing a field inside the Fair Grounds. The American's sports pages
promoted the tournament daily and Chicago businessmen raised $500
to finance the event.
On the opening
day of the 1933 tournament, the Chicago American said, "it is
the largest and most comprehensive tournament ever held in the sport
which has swept the country like wildfire." With admission free,
70,000 people saw the first round of play. Chicago teams won the three
divisions of play with Softball Hall of Famer Harry (Coon) Rosen leading
the J.L. Friedman Boosters to the men's title, one-hitting Briggs
Beautyware of Detroit, MI, in the finals. It was the first loss of
the season for Briggs after 41 consecutive wins.
It was evident
that softball finally had a foundation from which to grow, and, in
1935, the Playground Association Softball Guide, wrote: "the
years of persistent effort, constant promotion and unchanging faith
of believers in softball proved to have not been in vain, for in 1934
softball came into its own.
Softball World Championships in 1965 developed women's softball by
making it an international game, a step towards the Pan-American Games
and the Olympics. Eleven years later, women softball players were
given the closest equivalent to Major League Baseball with the 1976
formation of the International Women's Professional Softball League.
Player contracts ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 per year, but the league
disbanded in 1980 because of financial ruin.
of women's fastpitch softball has grown steadily since the professional
league's end in 1980. In fact, once again, there is another professional
fastpitch league called the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch League). The
Amateur Softball Association reports that it "annually registers
over 260,000 teams combining to form a membership of more than 4.5
million" (About the ASA). These numbers do not all apply to fastpitch,
yet it is consistently growing along with slowpitch. All over America
hundreds of leagues and thousands of players enthusiastically accepted
this major team game and Softball became one of America's favorite
is a team sport for two teams in which the object is to score runs
by advancing around a circuit of four bases. It is a direct descendant
of baseball, (sometimes referred to as "hardball" to differentiate
the two) but differs from it in several ways, of which the chief three
the ball is always
pitched (thrown to the batter) underarm – that is, it is released
when the hand is below the hip and no further from the body than the
elbow – while in baseball the ball may be released in any position
and is usually thrown overarm or sidearm
the ball is larger, softer, and less dense than a baseball
the playing field is normally smaller.
Softball is the most popular participant sport in the United States.
An estimated 56 million Americans will play at least one game of softball
during a year.
It is played by
both genders socially as well as competitively, and is an Olympic
sport for women. The International Softball Federation holds world
championships in several categories. The championships are held every
four years, but in different years for each category.
There are two general forms of softball–slow pitch and fast
In slow pitch
softball, a pitched ball must describe an arc with an apogee at least
above the batter's head. In order for a strike to be called, the ball
still must cross the plate between the batter's shoulder and knees,
or land in a small area directly behind home plate. The strike zone
can vary from league to league and umpire to umpire. Because of the
requirement for an arc, the pitcher must throw the ball relatively
slowly. There is no such restriction in fast pitch softball.
A regulation game
of slow pitch softball requires one more player than a game of fast
pitch – usually an additional outfielder.
field is divided into fair territory and foul territory. Fair territory
is further divided into the infield, the outfield, and the territory
beyond the outfield fence.
The field is similar
to a baseball field, but smaller. It is defined by two baselines or
foul lines which meet at a right angle at home plate. The minimum
length of the baselines ranges from 220 to 300 feet (67 to 91 m),
depending on the classification of play. A fence running between the
baselines defines the limits of the field; this fence is equidistant
from home plate at all points, unlike the outfield fence in baseball,
which is usually farther from home plate in centre field, and which
may be at different distances from home plate at the right and left
field foul lines.
Home plate is made of rubber. It is a five-sided figure, a combination
of a rectangle and triangle) 17 in (43 cm) wide. The sides are 8.5
in (22 cm) long. The triangle fits into the right angle formed by
Home plate is
one corner of a 60 foot square (sometimes 65 foot) or diamond with
bases at each corner. The bases other than home plate are 15 in (38
cm) square, of canvas or a similar material, and not more than 5 in
(13 cm) thick. The bases are securely fastened in position. The bases
are numbered counterclockwise as first base, second base, and third
base. Outside first base (that is, in foul territory) is a safety
base; to prevent collisions between the first baseman and the runner.
The runner runs for the safety base after hitting the ball while the
fielding team tries to throw the ball to the regular first base before
the runner reaches the safety base. However, not all softball diamonds
have these safety bases.
The infield consists
of the diamond and the adjacent space in which the infielders (see
below) normally play. The outfield is the remaining space between
the baselines and between the outfield fence and the infield. The
infield is usually skinned (dirt), while the outfield has grass in
In fast pitch softball the fielding team fields nine players –
the left, centre, and right fielder play in the outfield, while the
pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, and
shortstop play in the infield. The basemen play in the vicinity of
their bases, while the shortstop plays between the second and third
baseman (normally the second baseman plays on the first base side
of second base and the shortstop on the second base side). The pitcher
stands at the pitching point in the centre of the diamond; for men
the pitching point is 46 ft (14 m) from home plate, while for women
it is 40 ft (12 m) from home plate. There is no pitcher's mound as
in baseball. The catcher plays behind home plate, squatting to receive
A slow pitch softball
team fields an additional outfielder; the centre fielder is replaced
by a left centre fielder and a right centre fielder.
Another form of
softball instead adds a rover who plays between the centre fielder
and second base.
The batting team
sends one batter at a time to home plate to try to hit a ball thrown
by the pitcher forward into fair territory. Once the ball is hit into
fair territory the runner may try to advance to first base or beyond
(see below). Once on base the batter becomes a baserunner.
The size of the ball varies according to the classification of play;
the permitted circumferences in international play are 12 in (30 cm)
and 11 in ( 28 cm). The ball is most often covered in white leather
in two pieces roughly the shape of a figure 8 and sewn together with
red thread, although other coverings are permitted. The core of the
ball may be made of long fibre kapok, or a mixture of cork and rubber,
or a polyurethane mixture, or another approved material.
All players may
wear fielding gloves, made of leather or similar material, but only
the catcher and first baseman may wear mitts; gloves have fingers,
while mitts do not. Gloves have webbing between the thumb and forefinger.
The bat used by
the batter is made of hardwood, metal, or any of several other approved
materials. It may be no more than 34 in (86 cm) long, 2.25 in (6 cm)
in diameter, or 38 oz. (1kg) in weight
Each team wears
distinctive uniforms. The uniform varies more than baseball uniforms,
in that short pants are allowed as well as britches. It includes a
peaked cap, a shirt, an undershirt, and pants; these are the components
for which standards are set.
The players' shoes
may have cleats or spikes. Many recreational leagues prohibit the
use of metal cleats or spikes in order to reduce the possible severity
of injuries when a runner slides feet-first into a fielder.
The catcher wears
protective equipment, consisting of at least a mask with a grille
protecting the face, a throat protector, and a hard safety helmet.
The teams take turns batting. Each team bats until three players have
been put out, as described below. An inning consists of a turn at
bat by each team, with the home team batting second. Seven innings
constitute a game, unless extra innings are required to break a tie.
Play begins with
the pitcher attempting to throw the ball to the catcher past the batter
at home plate. The throw, or pitch, must be made with an underarm
motion – the ball must be released below the hip when the
hand is no farther from the hip than the elbow.
A strike is called
if the pitch crosses home plate between the batters' armpits and the
top of his or her knees without being hit by the batter. A strike
is also called if the batter hits the pitch but it falls to the ground
anywhere in foul territory (unless two strikes have already been called)
or if the batter swings at any pitch and misses. A batted ball hit
into foul territory is called a foul ball.
A pitch which
is not a strike and which the batter does not swing at is a ball (an
uncaught foul ball with two strikes on the batter is neither a strike
nor a ball). The number of balls and strikes is called the count.
The number of balls is always given first, as 2 and 1, 2 and 2, and
so on. A count of 3 and 2 is a full count, since the next ball or
strike will end the batter's turn at the plate (see next). If the
catcher drops the ball on the 3rd strike, the batter may try to advance
to 1st base.
If four balls
are called the batter advances to first base. The batter may also
advance after hitting the ball into fair territory without being put
the ball into fair territory, the batter must run to first base.
The batter is
out if: • three strikes are called • a ball hit by the
batter is caught before touching the ground • the batter is
touched by the ball or by a glove holding the ball while the batter
is away from a base (off base) • a fielder holding the ball
touches a base which is the only base towards which the batter may
run before the batter arrives there (a force out or force play) •
in certain other circumstances.
The most common
type of force play is made at first base. A batter that drives a ball
forward into fair territory must run to first base. If the ball is
thrown to first base (that is, to a fielder standing on first base)
before the batter can reach it, the batter is out. If the batter reaches
first base without being put out, then that player can then be forced
to run towards second base the next time a ball is driven into fair
territory. That is because the player must vacate first base to allow
the next batter to reach it, and consequently can only go to second
base, where a force out may be recorded.
If the player
hits the ball and advances to a base without a fielding error or an
out being recorded, then that is called a 'base hit'. The bases must
be reached in order counterclockwise, starting with first base. After
hitting the ball the batter may advance as many bases as possible.
An advance to first base on a hit is a single, to second base is a
double, to third base is a triple, and to home plate is a home run.
Home runs are usually scored by hitting the ball over the outfield
fence, but may be scored on a hit which does not go over the fence.
The batter stands
facing the pitcher inside a batter's box (there is one on each side
of the plate). The bat is held with both hands, over the shoulder
away from the pitcher. The ball is usually hit with a full swinging
motion in which the bat may move through more than 360 degrees. The
batter usually steps forward with the front foot and swings the bat.
However, a bunt is made by holding the bat stationary over the plate
and stabbing at the ball so it strikes the ground in front of home
A batted ball
hit high in the air is a fly ball. A fly ball hit upward at an angle
greater than 45 degrees is a pop fly. A batted ball driven in the
air through the infield at a height at which an infielder could play
it if in the right position is a line drive. A batted ball which hits
the ground within the diamond is a ground ball.
A player on base
is called a runner. When on first, second, or third base the runner
may be retired by being forced out, by being touched with the ball
while away from a base, and in certain other circumstances (being
hit by a batted ball, for example).
A run is scored
when a player has touched all four bases in order, proceeding counterclockwise
around them. They need not be touched on the same play; a batter may
remain safely on a base while play proceeds and attempt to advance.
The runner must be on base until the pitcher releases the ball. The
runner may advance as many bases as possible.
A runner may advance:
on a hit by another
automatically, when a base on balls advances another player to the
runner's current base
by stealing a base (running to the next base on the pitch and reaching
it before being tagged with the ball)
after a fly ball has been caught, provided the player was touching
a base at the time the ball was caught or after
automatically, on a balk (illegal delivery or non-delivery of a pitch
which could deceive the baserunner)
on an error by a fielder
The team with the most runs after seven innings wins the game. The
last (bottom) half of the seventh inning or any remaining part of
the seventh inning is not played if the home team is leading. If the
game is tied, play continues until a decision is reached. In some
games, to avoid embarrassing weaker teams, mercy rules award the contest
to a team which has taken a lead of a specified size before seven
innings have been played.
play are made by umpires. There must be at least one umpire. If there
is only one umpire, he or she stands behind home plate to call balls
and strikes, or behind the pitcher facing home plate if there is a
runner on base. Additional umpires are stationed at other bases; when
there is more than one umpire the home plate umpire remains behind