Sports

Softball Brings Out The Best (and The Worst) in Everyone

Why do so many American softball leagues attract bad players?

How does each player manage to keep his head in the game even though it may really be split open? Read on for more scores (I mean, details).

Softball is a cousin of baseball with some variations. The very first version dates back to the 19th century (Thanksgiving Day, 1887, to be exact) when George Hancock, a reporter from the Chicago Board of Trade, invented a winter version of the very popular baseball.

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As the story goes, a group of about twenty young men had gathered in the gymnasium of the Farragut Boat Club to hear the outcome of a Yale-Harvard football game.

After all bets were paid to victorious Yale followers, George shouted: “Let’s play ball!”

Propelled by sheer innovative inspiration, George tied a boxing glove so that it resembled a ball, chalked out a diamond on the floor that would fit the dimensions of the gym, and broke off a broom handle to serve as a bat. The game that followed is considered the world’s first softball game.

Due to the sport’s mass appeal, Hancock published his first set of indoor-outdoor rules in 1889. The game has survived the passing of many decades although the rules haven’t changed that much. Today, softball takes its place among one of America’s favorite pastimes for both men and women. Still, errors run high and some of them are truly unbelievable as reported by those who dare to tell the truth.

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Consider the blunder just last Memorial Day weekend of a coed lower level opener game that had been rained out the week before. Tensions were high as the pitcher in the bottom of the second inning caught a ball with his face to help celebrate the holiday and ended up in the ER with 30 stitches in the area where his smile might have otherwise been.

Still cheerful, his team lost at 21-0, coordinating with last year’s losing score of 15-1. According to deadspin.com, another team known as the Cranberries had a runner who ran to the pitcher’s mound instead of first base!  (At least he could run, which was something in his favor.)

What is the appeal of softball? In the words of soft-ball player, John Kralik:

“Baseball can’t adapt to the age groups without corrupting the game. Softball can and does… Softball is not all about raw strength. You must think about what to do and when to do it. Out-of-the-park home-runs won’t occur too often so you have to rely on other methods of getting around the bases quickly.”

Dave Davis, an ASA umpire, had this to say:

“I grew up loving baseball in an era before sports became a big business. Labor strife and big egos have gone a long way to taint my view of the Major Leagues. I have found that sports are played more intensely on the amateur level. I also believe that in most cases, the fast pitch softball games are more exciting to watch than baseball. The rules are similar, to be sure, but the smaller dimensions seem to add to the action.”

The popularity of women’s fast pitch softball has grown steadily since 1980. The Amateur Softball Association reports that it annually registers over 260,000 teams combining to form a membership of more than 4.5 million. In the words of Erin Anderson, a young player in Tennessee:

“The girls are great… I’ve met so many people and had such a good time these past couple of years. You can really find some good friends…”

The mysterious love and passion for softball remains even more so after seeing some of the photos of injuries. Nevertheless, its appeal has been universal throughout the passage of more than a century. Softball remains a democratic game for everyone, no matter how well or badly they play.

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