Softball began in 1887 at the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago, USA, when George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, invented “indoor baseball”. By the spring of 1888, the game had spread outdoors.
In 1895, the firs women’s team was formed in Chicago. At the same time, the sport was reinvented, taken outdoors and called “mushball”, “kitten ball” or “indoor baseball”, but by th 1920s it had acquired the name of “softball”.
The sport became organised in the United States in 1933 with the formation of the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA). The sport was originally played by men and did not become popular with women until the formation of the ASA.
Softball spread slowly to the rest of the world with, perhaps, its biggest push coming from American servicemen playing and teaching the game on the far-flung fields of World War II.
It was not until 1965 that the International Softball Federation (ISF) was formed. Author Karen Christensen, in the Encyclopedia of World Sport, notes that softball spread to the United Kingdom because of an American movie. The movie, “A Touch of Class”, was filmed in London and featured a softball game, which began to be played in England as a result.
World championships in fast pitch softball were first held in 1965 for women and 1966 for men. Slow-pitch world championships began in 1987, and the competition resumed in Florida (USA) in June of 2002. The first world competition for junior men and women was held in 1981 and a World Cup for age 16-under girls began in 2001.
Since then the game grew rapidly and is now played by more than hundreds of million people around the world.