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History Of Softball

What is the history of softball? What are its origins? Where did softball come from? Who invented it? Here is the history of softball.

Softball History

What are the basic rules of softball?

Softball is a fun and exciting sport in which two teams compete against each other to score more runs. The teams alternate between trying to hit the ball to score runs and playing in the field to stop the other team from scoring. Each team gets three outs in an inning to score as many runs as possible, with games typically lasting seven innings. Players use mitts and bats to be able to participate, but you can learn more about that in some of our other softball lessons.

Softball is very similar to baseball, but pitchers throw the ball underhanded, and softballs are slightly larger than baseballs!

Which Country Started Softball?

Softball originated in the United States. The game was first played in Chicago, Illinois, but quickly spread around the midwest and the world. It was added to the Olympic Games from 1996-2008, and the U.S. took 3 of the four possible gold medals at that time, with Japan winning in 2008. The sport will return in the 2020 Olympics, and the United States will be out to win their 4th gold medal in the sport originated in their own country!

Who Invented Softball?

Every softball player or fan has one person to thank with the invention of softball, a man by the name of George Hancock. In November of 1887, Hancock and his friends were watching a Harvard vs. Yale football match together in the Farragut Boat Club. One of his fellow viewers tossed a boxing glove at another, who swung at it with a broom handle. They then played a full match using a boxing glove as a ball and the broom handle as a bat, and a game was created!

Of course, the game developed into a fully-fledged sport many years later, with Hancock and other players creating official rules in 1934. Though the rules have changed since then, his legacy as the inventor of softball still lives on!

When was Softball Established?

Softball was invented in 1887 and became known as 'softball' in 1926 at a National Recreation Conference meeting. As you learned earlier, official rules were being put into place by 1934, with positions being named and official dimensions of fields and softballs being decided upon, thanks to the formation of the Amateur Softball Association.

By 1952, the International Softball Federation was formed, and modern rules were established, based mostly on those already created for baseball. Forty-four years later, in 1996, it would become an Olympic sport for the first time.

Today, more than 40 million Americans play softball each year, whether it be recreationally, competitively, or professionally!

Softball truly became a national sport in 1934, when teams around the country were formed, playing with official rules and a better understanding of how the game worked. Hundreds of leagues popped up around the country, mostly due to the sport's promotion by the Amateur Softball Association. Thousands of people across the country began playing the sport, and many women were beginning to participate since they were typically not allowed to play baseball.

Now, millions of people participate in the sport and have kept it a popular option for girls and women around the world.

Since its creation, softball has become an international sport participated in all over the globe. While it remains the most popular in the United States, here are some of the countries that softball can be found in:

  • United States
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Chinese Taipei
  • China
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand

Softball History Key Facts and Timeline

As you've learned in this lesson, softball has a pretty long history with many changes over the years! Here is a timeline of some of the most important events for you to remember when it comes to the sport:

  • 1887- The first iteration of softball is invented by George Hancock in his friends while watching a Harvard vs. Yale football game.
  • 1889- Hancock creates rules to be used by the "Mid Winter Indoor Baseball League of Chicago," but the game spreads through the fire departments in the area.
  • 1990- The game becomes known as "kitten ball" and moves outdoors.
  • 1926- Walter Hakanson comes up with the name of "softball," which is the first to become official.
  • 1934- The Amateur Softball Association is officially recognized by the National Recreation Congress. Rules were formalized, and the game was truly nationalized.
  • 1965- The first international softball tournament, the Women's Softball World Championship, is held in Australia.
  • 1982- The first College World Series of Softball is played.
  • 1996- Softball becomes an Olympic sport.
  • 2004- The first professional fastpitch league is formed in the United States.
  • 2012- Softball is no longer recognized as an Olympic sport.
  • 2020- Softball rejoins the Olympic Games as a sport.
  • Softball was originally played with a boxing glove and a broom handle. Now, players typically use leather mitts, metal alloy or composite bats, and rubber and cork softballs.
  • There are two main types of softball: slowpitch and fastpitch. Fastpitch is what you will see on TV during the College World Series or at a professional game!
  • More than 110 members are part of the International Softball Federation!