History of Softball

Softball is said to have begun – indoors, actually – in 1887 on Thanksgiving Day in Chicago.  A group of men had gathered together at Chicago’s Farragut Boat Club.  During the merriment a reporter from the Chicago Board of Trade, George Hancock, tied up a boxing glove (with its own strings) into a sphere, took a broomstick handle, and, using chalk, marked lines on the floor.  That night a game took place with 80 runs scored, and from there the sport had been born.  The first rulebook is said to have been issued (by Hancock) in 1889.

In 1895, Lewis Rober Sr. moved the game outside in a vacant lot outside of the Minneapolis, Minnesota firehouse he worked at so the firefighters could get some exercise while waiting for an alarm.  It was known at that time as ‘kitten league ball,’ which was later shortened to ‘kitten ball.’  In 1922 the name ‘kitten ball’ was changed to ‘diamond ball.’  At different times, the name of the game also would include ‘mush ball’ and ‘pumpkin ball.’  It wasn’t until 1926 that the term ‘softball’ was used, when Walter Hakanson of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) of Denver, Colorado conceived of it while attending a meeting to form the Colorado Amateur Softball Association.  There have been many variations of the game over the years as well.

In 1933 the first-ever national amateur softball tournament took place in conjunction with Chicago’s World’s Fair and soon after, the reporter who wrote about the event, Leo Fischer, helped establish the Amateur Softball Association (ASA).  Softball continued to spread to the rest of the world, with perhaps its biggest push coming from American servicemen playing and teaching the game on the fields of World War II.  In 1952 the first meeting was held for the International Softball Federation (ISF), which would govern the sport around the world, and the first world championship in international play took place in 1965, when women’s teams from five countries competed in Australia.  One year later, the first Men’s World Championship would be played (in Mexico).

In 1991, women’s fast-pitch softball was selected to debut as a medal sport at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.