Many people assume that softball came about from baseball, the sport’s first game actually came about because of a football game. The history of softball dates back to Thanksgiving Day of 1887 when several alumni sat in the Chicago, IL Farragut Boat Club anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Yale vs. Harvard football game. When Yale was announced as winner, a Yale alumnus playfully threw a boxing glove at a Harvard supporter. The Harvard fan swung at the balled-up glove with a stick, and the rest of the group looked on with interest. George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, jokingly called out “Play ball!” and the fist softball game commenced with the football fans using the boxing glove as a ball and a broom handle in place of a bat.
Due to the initial excitement surrounding the game, the Farragut Boat Club decided to officially devise their own set of rules, and the game quickly leaked to outsiders in Chicago and, eventually, throughout the rest of the Midwestern U.S. As the history of softball shaped itself over the next decade, the game went under the guise of “indoor baseball,” “kitten baseball,” “diamond ball,” “mush ball,” and “pumpkin ball.” In 1926, Walter Hakanson coined the term “softball” while representing the YMCA at a National Recreation Congress meeting, and by 1930 the term stuck as the sport’s official name.
In 1934, the Joint Rules Committee on Softball collaborated to create a set of standardized rules. Up until this point, the game was being played with varied rules, player positions and ball sizes. The original softball used by the Farragut club was 16 inches in circumference. However, Lewis Rober, Sr., the man responsible for organizing softball games for firefighters in Minneapolis, used a 12 inch ball.
Rober’s ball won out as the preferred softball size, and professional softball games today are played using a 10 – 12 inch ball. However, many Chicagoans still hold fast to the belief that...