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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

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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