Posted on

Why Aren’t Softballs Soft? A Quick History Lesson.

Black & White Photo Of Vintage Womens Softball

A Brief History

If you’ve held a softball before (or worse gotten hit with one), you know that the “soft” is quite misleading.  Softballs are actually quite the opposite of what their name implies.  So why in the world is the name misleading?  We’re going to take a very quick, shortened down version of the events that led up to the softballs naming.

To understand how the softball got it’s name we have to go back a few years…quite a few.  All the way back into the 1800’s.  If we jumped in a time machine and travelled all the way back to Thanksgiving Day in 1887 we could witness the first “softball” game in Chicago Illinois at the Farragut Boat Club.  There was a gathering of people at the club this day to witness the outcome of the Yale vs Harvard football game.  After hearing the scores of the football game a boxing glove was wound up tightly into a ball and a broom stick served as a bat.  A group joined together and started playing this new game they had just come up with.  At this point the first “softball” game had started.

Within a week of this first makeshift game, a fellow named George Hancock designed the first ball which was about 16 inches and an undersized bat for this game which we would come to know as softball.  The Farragut Boat Club started holding indoor games and rules were established for the game.  Within a year the game would start being played outside and by 1889 the game had rules published for it.

About 6 years later, firefighters in Minneapolis started playing kitten ball (or lemon ball, or diamond ball), which was a variation of the original game but used a 12″ ball instead.  It wasn’t until 1926 that Walter Hakanson coined the name Softball for this sport.  By the 1930’s the name had spread across the country and was being used to describe the many variations of this sport.  By the time 1936 rolled around, the Joint Rules Committee of Softball had standardized the rules and naming across the United States.

What about fastpitch?

Fastpitch softball (which is what we are mainly focused on here at SotballGalaxy.com) didn’t really hit the scene until the 1930’s and 40’s.  In fact, by the 1940’s it had begun to dominate the sport.  Commercial and Semi-Pro leagues started popping up all around the country.  Both men and women participated in fastpitch softball.  It had become quite the spectator event as well, especially the men’s games.  It should be noted that fastpitch softball is one of the few world’s sports where women were welcomed extensively.  For this reason, we consider modern softball as a sport that is mainly dominated by women.

Fast forward into the future and by 1991, fastpitch softball had hit a growth spurt and the decision was made to include it in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games that were held in Atlanta Georgia.  (Here is a neat video of some of the highlights of the softball games played in the 1996 Olympics)

Ending Thougths

Of course there is much more history to the sport than this very brief write up we did.  But we think you get the gist of why it’s called softball now.  Consider this though…  Would softball even exist today had that boxing glove not been sitting there in that one spot in the Farragut Boat Club back in the 1800’s?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We are thankful that it was though!  The modern game of softball is one of the most exciting sports to play for so many and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend our time than enjoying the game we all love!

Not enough history to fulfill your thirst for learning here?  Check out this book right here then.

Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game

We think you will enjoy it!