Who Invented Softball? Although one man came up with a version of the game in 1887, another modified it in 1895. A young gentleman from Chicago, George Hancock, is considered the game’s inventor. Minneapolis firefighter Lewis Rober also made great strides in shaping softball history.
On Thanksgiving Day 1887, a group of alumni from Harvard and Yale universities gathered at the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago. The crowd awaited the score of the traditional football classic between the two Ivy League schools. Once Yale’s victory was announced, someone took a boxing glove and threw it at someone else, who hit it with some sort of wooden stick.
Hancock told the group that they should play a ball game. He shaped the boxing glove into a ball and tied it. He then traced the inner square diamond to fit inside the gym. Someone grabbed a stick or a broom handle to use as a bat. This fake baseball game is credited as the first softball game ever played.
Hancock wrote the rules for the game and created the oversized ball so that the equipment associated with the game would be different from baseball. Hancock also invented a smaller rubber-tipped bat.
In 1895, Lewis Rober, a Minneapolis firefighter, wanted to find some kind of activity to keep his fire crew busy and fit. Rober modified the baseball game to fit the dimensions of the vacant lot adjacent to the fire station. The following year, Rober was assigned to a new fire room and the game became known as Kitten Ball, after the name of Rober’s team: the Kittens.
Did Robert borrow the idea from Hancock’s invention? Probably not. Hancock’s softball adaptation was limited to the Chicago area and it is unlikely that Rober was aware of the game.
No matter which man invented softball, his ingenuity helped shape America’s most popular participation sport.