Softball is a sport that is known throughout the United States and the world. Softball originated on Thanksgiving Day in Chicago in 1887. The game was actually said to have begun as an indoor game. Softball was started by a group of men who had gathered at a club to watch the Harvard vs. Yale football game. 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. Hancock, however, wasn’t kidding. Using what was available, he tied together the laces of a 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 gymnasium, with the two groups divided into two 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 grow in popularity to where today more than 25 million people enjoy playing it in the United States and millions more internationally in more than 100 countries. Hancock set up rules and had his friends over to his house every Saturday night to play this new game. From there it spread all over Chicago. The first rule book is said to have been issued in 1889.
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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. Leagues began to be formed and the buildup for the game spread all over. 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 Hakan son of the YMCA of Denver, Colorado conceived of it while attending a meeting in Greeley, Colorado to form the Colorado Amateur Softball Association. There have been many variations of the game over the years as well.
As the sport became more popular, leagues formed to help the sport grow. In 1931, an age 75-and-older team was formed, traveling around in suits playing the game, and calling themselves Kids and K ubs. Two years later 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. Over the next seven years it was determined that more than five million players were active in the game. In 1946, the National Fastball League was established and was considered to be the top male fast pitch league to ever be put together.
That year also saw the famous Eddie Feigner organize the King and His Court, a four-man softball team that took on all competition. 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, which would govern the sport around the world. The first world championship in international play took place in 1965, when women’s teams from five countries competed in Australia.
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One year later, the first Men’s World Championship would be played. World championships for junior men and junior women were first played in 1981, and a Men’s World Slow Pitch Championship debuted in 1987. There are many rules of softball. The rules are used to organize the game and try to make the game fair and easy to play for both teams.
The following rules are official ones that are governed by the Amateur Softball Association of America. These rules have been modified for the University of Maryland’s intramural softball league. Tennis shoes or rubber-created shoes must be worn. Metal cleats are illegal in all leagues. Shoes deemed to be unsafe by the Intramural Sport Supervisor will also be prohibited. Game time is forfeit time.
Teams must be ready to play at scheduled time with a minimum of 8 players. Penalty: Forfeit. home team is determined by a pre-game coin toss. Seven innings will constitute an official game, unless time limit, darkness, rain or run rule prevails. 5 innings (4 1/2 if the home team is ahead) is an official game. If a game is postponed while in progress, it will be resumed at the point from which it was stopped.
No new inning will be started after 60 minutes. Game time begins with the coin toss. At the end of the time limit the game will be called, unless darkness, rain, or run rule have been invoked. A team leading by 15+ runs after three innings or 10+ runs after five innings (4 1/2 innings if home team is ahead) or any complete inning thereafter will be declared the winner and the game complete. During the regular season, there will be no extra inning play. No runner shall leave his or her base before the batter makes contact with the pitch.
There will be no warning given by the umpires. If a runner is off the base illegally, he / she shall be declared out. Each batter shall be allowed one courtesy foul ball after two strikes. Each team shall be allowed to hit two foul balls out of play per half inning. Every subsequent foul ball hit out of play shall be an out. Softball has proven to be a great sport for all interested.
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Softball is a growing sport that will always provide good entertainment and fun for those who love playing softball and even those interested in baseball.