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Then and Now: Softball’s History and Evolution 7

Posted on November 23, 2016 by John Harris
The history of softball dates back to 1887.

The history of softball dates back to 1887.

While common conjecture assumes softball is the younger sibling of baseball (which isn’t too far off), this sport actually evolved thanks to cold weather, boredom, and a football game. Back in 1887, Yale and Harvard graduates were battling the chill and boredom during a Yale versus Harvard game. When it was discovered that Yale defeated its competitor, an enthusiastic Yale grad threw an old boxing glove at a Harvard spectator, who returned in kind by attempting to knock the glove back with a stick—his makeshift form of a bat. George Hancock watched with delight nearby, and concocted the idea of an indoor baseball game, and spectators flocked to play this impromptu game. He tied together a boxing glove in a makeshift ball, then chalked the bases and pitcher’s box.

Fast forward almost a century and a half, and today’s version of softball is enjoyed by over 40 million players. So how did we get from a tied-up boxing glove to today’s leagues? Track the evolution of one of America’s sports and see what it took to transform the game as we know it.

Softball Begins to Spread

After Hancock’s inventive game was spread, it became a popular pastime in Chicago that winter. While originally intended for baseball players to partake in for practice during inclement weather, softball soon took on its own importance and play was transferred to the outdoor field. It took off, and softball began to spread through the Midwest. As rules were created and amended during the following decade, it was referred to as kitten baseball, diamond ball, pumpkin ball, and even mush ball, before finally earning the official moniker of softball in 1926. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

      Read more »

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