What is the history of softball?
The original version of the game was played in Chicago in 1887, after a group of Yale and Harvard alumni had come together to learn of the outcome between their college football teams. A rolled up boxing glove was tossed at an opposing supporter, who in turn grabbed a nearby stick and swung at it. A new game broke out and ended with a score of 41-40.
Chicago reporter George Hancock is considered the father of modern softball; one week after the first game, he designed a 17-inch ball and bat to use. Part of its immediate appeal was that it served as a way for baseball players to stay sharp in the winter months, as this early version was only played indoors. Once it was warm enough, the game moved outside onto the ball fields.
It’s been known by several names over the years—kitten ball, diamond ball, indoor baseball, pumpkin ball—but in 1926 the term ‘softball’ was coined. The name stuck as the sport gained popularity in the 1930s, with a special presentation at the 1933 World’s Fair. While fastpitch was the more popular style of play for decades, the 1950s introduced slow pitch to the Amateur Softball Association, which helped make the game more accessible to everyone.
Softball at the Olympic Games
Softball was introduced to the Summer Games in 1996, but then dropped from competition in 2012. The United States women’s team won three of the four gold medals at these events—they received the silver after losing to Japan in 2000.
What are the current Olympic softball events?
Women’s softball will make a return to the Olympics in 2020, along with baseball, surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, and karate.