Softball was invented in Chicago in 1887 by a group of men who wanted to play baseball indoors during the cold and brutal winters of northern Illinois.To play indoors they created a soft, oversized ball and a small bat so that the ball would not travel too far or too hard. This indoor baseball took off in popularity and by the next summer the game was also played outside. With time women too began to participate in the sport. However, the size of the ball in softball does not vary for women and men.
Men Played Softball First
In the beginning, softball was exclusively a male sport. It was not until 1895 that the first women's team was formed in a Chicago high school. Softball's popularity as a women's sport grew slowly and competition play did not start until 1899. The rules were standardized in 1926 and it was demonstrated as both a men's and women's sport in the 1933 Chicago State Fair.
The Differences Between Softball and Baseball
Softball and baseball share many similarities but since softball was created as an indoor sport, the dynamics of the game are quite different from those of baseball. Softball has 7 innings whereas baseball has 9. In softball the circumference of the ball is 11 to 12 inches and less dense than baseball's 9-inch ball. Because of the larger ball, softball players use smaller bats. The bat in softball must be no longer than 34 inches and can be made of composite materials. In baseball in the bat can be no longer than 42 inches and must be made of wood at the professional level.
The Difference in the Pitch
Since this sport originated as an indoor event with limited playing field, the pitch of the ball also had to be altered. The standard baselines in baseball are 90 feet compared to softball's 60 feet. All pitches in softball must be made underhanded. This style of pitching reduces the speed of travel of the ball and it also reduces the distance that the ball's capable of traveling when it's hit.
The Future of Softball
Softball continues to be played by both men and women in both amateur and professional competition. Softball is also an Olympic sport played by both men and women national teams. However, at the high school and college levels, softball is likely to continue to be sanctioned for girls and women only.