Archive for Thursday, September 18, 2008

A little history about softball

September 18, 2008

I remember when softball started in Lansing in the 1930s. The games were played on the old slate dump ball field that we built ourselves. It was the flat area north or our present fire station.

When my brothers and I played ball right across the street from our house, I never felt that our dad cared much for the game as he only played baseball and was a very good baseball pitcher. Thinking about that made me do some research about softball, and I found out that it was invented only 41 years before I was born, in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day in 1887.

A group of about 20 young men had gathered in the gymnasium of the Farragut Boat Club in order to hear the outcome of the Harvard/Yale football game. They were waiting for telegrams for the update of the game at the Polo Grounds in New York. After Yale's victory was announced and bets were paid off, a man picked up a stray boxing glove and threw it at someone who hit it with a pole. George Hancock, usually considered the inventor of softball, shouted "let's play ball." He tied the boxing glove so it would resemble a ball, chalked out a diamond on the floor (smaller dimensions than a baseball field in order to fit the gym) and broke off a broom handle to serve as a bat.

The game now is 121 years old and still going strong. Hancock was so fascinated with this that he had an oversize ball made and created an undersized rubber tipped bat, then went back to the gym to paint permanent foul lines on the floor and he named the sport indoor baseball. It gained in popularity almost immediately. Soon after that it moved to the outdoors. Therefore, the sport is connected to boating, boxing and football.

The first softball game in this gym Sunday, Sept. 14, 1887, lasted an hour and the score was 41 to 40. Hancock decided the game was a keeper and wrote out rules and regulations.

It is amazing what can happen when 20 young men get their heads together.

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