The history of softball is by far the clearest of all documented sports related histories. Meaning that football history, soccer and golf among other sports all have much more convoluted beginnings compared to softball history. It is a relatively young sport that was originated in Chicago in 1887. The story has it that after receiving the score of the Yale and Harvard football game that a group of young men jumped up and one young man threw a boxing glove at another who proceeded to hit it with a pole. George Hancock who is often credited with creating the game then drew out a diamond on the floor and took the handle of a broom to use as a stick. They tied more boxing gloves up to be used as an oversized ball. Suffice that it is odd to say that softball history originated indoors and was developed by men. The original game was loosely based on a shortened version of baseball with a smaller field and a larger ball. Shortly after this Mr. Hancock painted permanent lines in the gymnasium, prepared some new rules and coined the sport indoor baseball.
Softball history’s popularity grew rapidly and Hancock then formed a publication on all of the rules of the game. Canada adopted the sport as it was easy to play indoors. Then the game took a turn on the outdoor fields in the summer and was called indoors/outdoors.
Different teams and leagues began to grow all over the northeast. Chicago while credited with the development saw teams popping up in Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts. Then the great gold rush took easterners west to gain riches and along with them they brought there sports, which helped develop the west coasts teams.
Women’s softball was also developed in Chicago and West Division High was the first to have a team in 1895. They played mostly indoors and were not initially recognized as comparable to the men. It took the women’s leagues much longer to gain credibility and the real crossover was the growth in popularity of baseball. As baseball became much more popular the male players shifted to it while the women began to make softball there own. Now a day’s both men and women of all ages can enjoy the sport.
Throughout the 1900’s leagues and tournaments began to pop up everywhere. The National Championship was first played in Chicago in 1933 and it included both male and female competitors. The sixties and seventies saw professional leagues come and go for women. The slow pitch game evolved on the international level with the Softball World Championships in 1965. It ultimately set the platform for the Olympics which greatly improved softball history. The game began to shift as players became much bigger and stronger and less pitching and defense were incorporated. The officials and high ranking decision makers of the leagues around the world began to make a shift to fast pitch softball beginning around the 1980’s and 90’s. At first the changes were met with much resistance but the game has since embraced the changes.
Fast pitch has altered the appearance of the game dramatically. The sport is much more a game of speed and defense rather than offense and power and it has also produced much more media coverage and growth in the sport than ever.
The game of softball is appealing to so many levels of our society. Young men and women can enjoy the game on either a social or competitive level. The thousands of softball leagues around the country provide for a great social backdrop. College teams flourish and the international scene is more popular than ever. Softball history has come such a long way in the last hundred years from poles and boxing gloves to international notoriety, so goes the history of softball.