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The History of Softball
Softball originated in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, 1887. A group of about twenty young men had gathered in the gymnasium of the Farragut Boat Club in order to hear the outcome of the Harvard-Yale football game. After Yale's victory was announced and bets were paid off, a man picked up a stray boxing glove and threw it at someone, who hit it with a pole. George Han****, usually considered the inventor of softball, shouted, "Let's play ball!" He tied the boxing glove so that it resembled a ball, chalked out a diamond on the floor (smaller dimensions than those of a baseball field in order to fit the gym) and broke off a broom handle to serve as a bat. What proceeded was an odd, smaller version of baseball. That game is now, 111 years later, known as the first softball game. Softball may have seen its death on the day of its birth if Han**** had not been so fascinated by it. In one week, he created an oversized ball and an undersized rubber-tipped bat and went back to the gym to paint permanent white foul lines on the floor. After he wrote new rules and named the sport indoor baseball, a more organized, yet still new, game was played. Its popularity was immediate.
Han****'s original game of indoor baseball quickly caught on in popularity, becoming international with the formation of a league in Toronto. That year, 1897, was also the premiere publication of the Indoor Baseball Guide. This was the first nationally distributed publication on the new game and it lasted a decade. In the spring of 1888, Han****'s game moved outdoors. It was played on a small diamond and called indoor-outdoor. Due to the sport's mass appeal, Han**** published his first set of indoor-outdoor rules in 1889.
While Chicago was definitely softball's birthplace, the game saw some modification in Minneapolis. The year was 1895 when Lewis Rober, Sr., (a fire department officer) needed an activity to keep his men occupied and in shape during their free time. He created his game to fit the confines of a vacant lot next to the firehouse and the result was instantly appealing. Surprisingly, Rober was probably not familiar with Han****'s version of the sport because it was still concentrated in Chicago at that time. The following year, 1896, Rober was moved to a new unit with a new team to manage. In honor of this group's name, the Kittens, the game was termed Kitten League Ball in 1900. The name was later shortened to kitten ball.
In order to reach the Olympics, the women's sport of softball obviously had to grow greatly from its beginnings. The first women's softball team was formed in 1895 at Chicago's West Division High School. They did not obtain a coach for competitive play until 1899 and it was difficult to create interest among fans. However, only five years later, more attention was given to the women's game. The Spalding Indoor Baseball Guide 1904 issue fueled this attention by devoting a large section of the guide to the game of women's softball.
The Chicago National Tournament in 1933 also advanced the sport. At this competition, the male and female champions were honored equally. The International Softball World Championships in 1965 developed women's softball by making it an international game, a step towards the Pan-American Games and the Olympics. Eleven years later, women softball players were given the closest equivalent to Major League Baseball with the 1976 formation of the International Women's Professional Softball League. Player contracts ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 per year, but the leage disbanded in 1980 because of financial ruin. Vicki Schneider, a St. Louis Softball Hall of Famer and former professional player, recalls this league as being the high point of her career (Schneider).
The popularity of women's fastpitch softball has grown steadily since the professional league's end in 1980. In fact, once again, there is another professional fastpitch league. The Amateur Softball Association reports that it "annually registers over 260,000 teams combining to form a membership of more than 4.5 million" (About the ASA). These numbers do not all apply to fastpitch, yet it is consistently growing along with slowpitch. Vicki Schneider has seen a major growth in popularity and intensity for the sport since she has been involved. She says it is also very obvious that girls are consistently getting more involved and more competitive at an earlier age. Increased media coverage and the Olympics have greatly contributed to this development (Schneider). There is obviously some special appeal of fastpitch softball that has allowed it to steadily grow in popularity through the years. Through the technology of the internet, those who are currently involved in the sport were asked for their personal opinions on the mass appeal of women's fastpitch softball.
First of all, why are these millions of people involved in softball, not baseball? Is it just a substitute for baseball or is there a difference? John Kralik replies, "...[Baseball] can't adapt to the age groups without corrupting the game. Softball can and does" (Kralik). Megan Flaherty, 18, says that unlike baseball, softball is "not all about raw strength. You must think about what to do and when to do it. Out-of-the-park homeruns won't occur too often so you have to rely on other methods of getting around the bases quickly" (Flaherty). Londa Kauffman feels that softball is much faster and more exciting than baseball (Kauffman). More specifically, Dave Davis, an ASA umpire, says, "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 fastpitch 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" (Davis).
Once a person chooses to become involved in fastpitch softball, the sport must have some priority to him or her. Does fastpitch play an important role in a person's life? Dot Richardson put aside her medical career in order to fulfill her Olympic dream. Therefore, softball must be a high priority to her. Robin Scott obviously agrees with Richardson, to a more extreme degree. She says, "NOTHING comes before softball. I don't care what it is. My first priority is softball, then everything else comes next" (Scott). Dave Davis, 35, has the same attitude. On his first anniversary, his wife insisted that he miss a softball game in order to take her out to dinner. Looking back, he replies, "Some nerve!" (Davis).
Others put softball high on their list of priorities, but it is not first. Many players agree that school must come before their sport. Skelly Skadsen, 17, feels that "school will take you somewhere in life and softball is good for memories" (Skadsen). Kelly Dwyer, a former Division I player, always put family and school before softball because "as much as [she] loved it, [she] knew that after college there wasn't a pro league" (Dwyer). Vicki Scheider, now the owner of The Batting Cage in Valley Park, Missouri, puts God and family at the top of her priority list and they have been in that position all of her life, no matter what she achieved in fastpitch softball (Schneider).
Why is softball so often a top priority? What aspect of softball makes it so appealing? Everyone who plays, coaches, umpires, or watches women's fastpitch softball has something in common. They all like and enjoy the game. However why do they, similar to generations before them, enjoy fastpitch softball?
Erin Anderson, a fourteen-year-old player in Tennessee, says, "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... Road trips, hotels, playing all kinds of different teams are all a part of why I love this game" (Anderson). Kelly Stellfox loves "the friendships you make [in fastpitch]" (Stellfox) and another player, 16, says that there is a "sorority among her teammates" (Anonymous). Katherine Hyrcyna supports this personal aspect, pointing out that there are no superstars in fastpitch. She says, "Softball is all about trust and family. [For example,] the shortstop made a great diving catch, but the first baseman caught her throw, or the pitcher threw a no-hitter, but [the right fielder] caught that line drive and saved the no-hitter" (Hyrcyna).
Many others enjoy the physical activity that surrounds fastpitch. Michelle Eastman, 16, loves "... the rush of winning, sliding, making a diving catch, hitting an awesome triple... [and] the pure adrenaline that comes with playing hard and succeeding" (Eastman). A player in Dallas, Texas, loves "... that action of fielding a ball and throwing it... diving for balls and making the catch... running bases, leading off, stealing, and sliding... the competition... the athleticism... the fast-paced nature of the game... the team work... [and] how everything comes together and fits together like puzzle pieces, everyone doing their job" (Anonymous). Laurel Munski, from New York, is fascinated with the "unknown" aspect of fastpitch. She states, "You can't really predict what the batter might do when up at the plate; you can only react. The same is true when you [are batting]. You don't know what the pitcher is going to pitch to you; you can only react to where it is and decide [whether or not] to swing" (Munski). Similarly, Cyrena Gawuga plays because she "[likes] the challenge" (Gawuga). Others, like Vicki Schneider, enjoy the fact that softball is a team sport, but a player can set individual goals for herself (Schneider).
Coaches also have important points of view on why they are involved in women's fastpitch softball. Bob Prastine remarks, "When you see in [your players'] eyes that something you have been trying to get them to understand for weeks finally clicks and they use and understand that knowledge in a real game situation, well, it makes all your effort worthwhile" (Prastine). Lynn Ditlow, from Pennsylvania, says of coaching, "If I can coach others with good skills, theory, and mechanic, help them develop their knowledge and skills, and have fun with this sport, then I've been able to contribute to another's success." She adds, "My reward is knowing [that] I've helped [players] to reach their goals" (Ditlow). Bill Lammel supports this viewpoint. "I love and care for all the girls that play for me and want them to excel. Softball is a good way to teach them values, self-esteem, and how to work together for a common goal. [These are] skills that they can use throughout their lives" (Lammel), he says. Paul O'Brien in Maryland enjoys coaching young women because they "are much more appreciative of a coach's work than boys and there are less superstar/know-it-all attitudes" (O'Brien).
From an umpire's point of view, Rich Rosa, 44, believes that he has "the best seat in the house" (Rosa). Another ASA umpire, Dave Davis, says that his job is rewarding: "Knowing that I'm giving something back to the game from which I have received so many great memories is great." He also adds, "I want people to be happy to see that it's me working their game. I pride myself in my preparation and my main goal is to become the most consistent official that I can" (Davis).
Sharon Whaley, the mother of a college softball player, also has a special feeling about the sport. "I love seeing my daughter excel at something she loves so much... It's really hard to explain the feeling you get as a parent when your child is so happy with her accomplishments" (Whaley). Whaley is not the only one with unexplainable feelings concerning softball, feelings well described by Kelly Dwyer. She says that softball's appeal is "... just a feeling you get when you play, just an overall feeling of elation and joy when you are playing. It's kind of like asking someone why they love their boyfriend. It's hard to name one thing; it's just that you feel comfortable and happy when you are with them. [It is the] same thing with softball" (Dwyer). Dot Richardson agrees. When she plays there is a "passion from within" that is impossible to explain. It is that passion that makes her love the game, not the championships, gold medals, endorsements, autographs, or other publicity (Richardson).
This unexplainable love and passion for softball has allowed the sport to grow, develop, and maintain universal appeal throughout time. For the past 111 years, softball, "a game for everyone," has united people with a mysterious feeling. George Han**** had this feeling in 1887 and Dot Richardson, along with millions of others, has it today. The feelings that surround softball and its players are timeless.
Native American History of Lacrosse
By Thomas Vennum Jr.
Author of American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War
Lacrosse was one of many varieties of indigenous stickball games being played by American Indians at the time of European contact. Almost exclusively a male team sport, it is distinguished from the others, such as field hockey or shinny, by the use of a netted racquet with which to pick the ball off the ground, throw, catch and convey it into or past a goal to score a point. The cardinal rule in all varieties of lacrosse was that the ball, with few exceptions, must not be touched with the hands.
Early data on lacrosse, from missionaries such as French Jesuits in Huron country in the 1630s and English explorers, such as Jonathan Carver in the mid-eighteenth century Great Lakes area, are scant and often conflicting. They inform us mostly about team size, equipment used, the duration of games and length of playing fields but tell us almost nothing about stickhandling, game strategy, or the rules of play. The oldest surviving sticks date only from the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and the first detailed reports on Indian lacrosse are even later. George Beers provided good information on Mohawk playing techniques in his Lacrosse (1869), while James Mooney in the American Anthropologist (1890) described in detail the "[Eastern] Cherokee Ball-Play," including its legendary basis, elaborate rituals, and the rules and manner of play.
Given the paucity of early data, we shall probably never be able to reconstruct the history of the sport. Attempts to connect it to the rubber-ball games of Meso-America or to a perhaps older game using a single post surmounted by some animal effigy and played together by men and women remain speculative. As can best be determined, the distribution of lacrosse shows it to have been played throughout the eastern half of North America, mostly by tribes in the southeast, around the western Great Lakes, and in the St. Lawrence Valley area. Its presence today in Oklahoma and other states west of the Mississippi reflects tribal removals to those areas in the nineteenth century. Although isolated reports exist of some form of lacrosse among northern California and British Columbia tribes, their late date brings into question any widespread diffusion of the sport on the west coast.
On the basis of the equipment, the type of goal used and the stick-handling techniques, it is possible to discern three basic forms of lacrosse—the southeastern, Great Lakes, and Iroquoian. Among southeastern tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, Yuchi and others), a double-stick version of the game is still practiced. A two-and-a half foot stick is held in each hand, and the soft, small deerskin ball is retrieved and cupped between them. Great Lakes players (Ojibwe, Menominee, Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, Miami, Winnebago, Santee Dakota and others) used a single three-foot stick. It terminates in a round, closed pocket about three to four inches in diameter, scarcely larger than the ball, which was usually made of wood, charred and scraped to shape. The northeastern stick, found among Iroquoian and New England tribes, is the progenitor of all present-day sticks, both in box as well as field lacrosse. The longest of the three—usually more than three feet—it was characterized by its shaft ending in a sort of crook and a large, flat triangular surface of webbing extending as much as two-thirds the length of the stick. Where the outermost string meets the shaft, it forms the pocket of the stick.
Lacrosse was given its name by early French settlers, using the generic term for any game played with a curved stick (crosse) and a ball. Native terminology, however, tends to describe more the technique (cf. Onondaga DEHUNTSHIGWA'ES, "men hit a rounded object") or, especially in the southeast, to underscore the game's aspects of war surrogacy ("little brother of war"). There is no evidence of non-Indians taking up the game until the mid-nineteenth century, when English-speaking Montrealers adopted the Mohawk game they were familiar with from Caughnawauga and Akwesasne, attempted to "civilize" the sport with a new set of rules and organize into amateur clubs. Once the game quickly grew in popularity in Canada, it began to be exported throughout the Commonwealth, as non-native teams travelled to Europe for exhibition matches against Iroquois players. Ironically, because Indians had to charge money in order to travel, they were excluded as "professionals" from international competition for more than a century. Only with the formation of the Iroquois Nationals in the 1980s did they successfully break this barrier and become eligible to compete in World Games.
Apart from its recreational function, lacrosse traditionally played a more serious role in Indian culture. Its origins are rooted in legend, and the game continues to be used for curative purposes and surrounded with ceremony. Game equipment and players are still ritually prepared by conjurers, and team selection and victory are often considered supernaturally controlled. In the past, lacrosse also served to vent aggression, and territorial disputes between tribes were sometimes settled with a game, although not always amicably. A Creek versus Choctaw game around 1790 to determine rights over a beaver pond broke out into a violent battle when the Creeks were declared winners. Still, while the majority of the games ended peaceably, much of the ceremonialism surrounding their preparations and the rituals required of the players were identical to those practiced before departing on the warpath.
A number of factors led to the demise of lacrosse in many areas by the late nineteenth century. Wagering on games had always been integral to an Indian community's involvement, but when betting and violence saw an increase as traditional Indian culture was eroding, it sparked opposition to lacrosse from government officials and missionaries. The games were felt to interfere with church attendance and the wagering to have an impoverishing effect on the Indians. When Oklahoma Choctaw began to attach lead weights to their sticks around 1900 to use them as skull-crackers, the game was outright banned.
Meanwhile, the spread of non-native lacrosse from the Montreal area eventually led to its position today worldwide as one of the fastest growing sports (more than half a million players), controlled by official regulations and played with manufactured rather than hand-made equipment—the aluminum shafted stick with its plastic head, for example. While the Great Lakes traditional game died out by 1950, the Iroquois and southeastern tribes continue to play their own forms of lacrosse. Ironically, the field lacrosse game of non-native women today most closely resembles the Indian game of the past, retaining the wooden stick, lacking the protective gear and demarcated sidelines of the men's game, and tending towards mass attack rather than field positions and offsides.
Culin, Stewart. "Games of the North American Indians." In Twenty fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903, pp. 1-840. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1907.
Fogelson, Raymond. "The Cherokee Ball Game: A Study in Southeastern Ethnology." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1962.
Vennum, Thomas Jr. American India Lacrosse: Little Brother of War. Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.
More History of Lacrosse
Lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America, with its origin dating back to the 1400s. It did not become generally known and talked about however, until the 1600s when a Jesuit missionary named Jean de Brebeuf saw the Hyron Indians play it. In a report to his superiors, he stated little about the actual play of the game but seemed to be intrigued by the stick the indians used while playing. Jean de Brebeuf likened the stick the indians competed with, to the "crosier" carried at religious ceremonies by a bishop. Thus, the name la crosse evolved, and this later became simply "lacrosse."
Indian lacrosse was a mass game and often teams were made up of one hundred to one thousand braves on each side. The goals were usually five-hundred yards to one-half mile apart. On occasion, the goals could be seperated by several miles. Usually a large rock or tree was considered the goal and a score was recorded by hitting the rock or tree with a ball. Some tribes used goal posts six to nine feet apart, and the ball had to pass between them for a score, much like today's game.
Games lasted from sunnup to sundown and stretched over the course of two or three days. Lacrosse games were originally used to toughen braves for actual combat. There were even times when games were played between two tribes to settle their differences or disputes.
It was not until the early 1800s that the French pioneers started playing lacrosse seriously. With their participation in the sport came the first signs of turning lacrosse into a more civilized game. Canadian dentist W. George Beers standardized the game in 1867 with the adoption of set field dimensions, limits to the number of players per team, and other basic rules. Little did the French settlers know that they would be credited for being the forefathers of lacrosse, along with the indians. New York University fielded the nation's first college team in 1877, and Philips Andover Academy (Mass.), Philips Exeter Academy (NH.) and the Lawrenceville School (N.J.) were the nations' first high school teams in 1882.
In the early 1900s lacrosse became recognized as a "force to be reckoned with." It was during this time that the game was first played in Olympic competition, and the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse League (USILL) was formed. In 1926, the USILL was replaced by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, which is still the governing body of lacrosse today.
Lacrosse continued to grow in America during the mid 1900s, and today the game is played by over 500 colleges and universities, as well as over 1400 high schools countrywide. Women's lacrosse is booming too. Over 100 colleges and universities, along with 150 high schools, currently sponsor programs.
A visitor from another planet would be perplexed and perhaps even frightened by the odd looking sticks with a strange net attached, being twirled by some athletes today.
Is it a butterfly net? A crab net? A big swatter?
No, just a lacrosse stick, the primary equipment (along with a hard rubber ball) of a lacrosse player, who plays the oldest game in the North American continent.
Lacrosse is steeped in tradition, and though today's participants use sticks of plastic and titanium rather than wood, the lacrosse stick symbolizes the historical significance of the game.
The game, like the stick itself, was developed by North American Indians as early as the 15th century. Indians played the game not only for recreation, but also to settle tribal disputes and to toughen warriors for fighting.
Games were played by as few as 100 and as many as 1,000 men and lasted two or three days, with play beginning at sunup and ending at sundown each day. Goals, consisting of rocks or trees, were generally 500 yards to a half-mile apart, but could be several miles apart. There were no sidelines, and players raced far and wide over the countryside.
White men - Jesuit missionaries from France - first encountered the game in the 17th century. They wrote home about a game played by the Huron Indians with sticks reminiscent of the crosier (la Crosse) carried by bishops as a symbol of their office.
In the early 1800's white settlers in Montreal took up the game. When the Dominion of Canada was created a decade later, lacrosse was designated - and still remains - the national sport. Canadians introduced the game to the United States, England, Ireland, and Scotland. Today, lacrosse is played at home and in international competition by England and Australia, as well as the United States and Canada.
For the uninitiated, lacrosse is a combination of football, hockey and basketball. It has been called the fastest game on two feet and is a grueling test of stamina.
There are 10 positions on a team (one goalie, three attackmen, three midfielders, and three defensemen). The object: put a 5 oz. hard-rubber ball into your opponent's net with a long-handled stick with a triangular pocket at the end, while keeping your opponent from doing the same to you.
Like soccer, lacrosse is played on an open field with goals at both end; like hockey, the player carry sticks and can roam behind the net; like basketball, the offensive players set picks and run patterned offenses and fast breaks, while the defenses are man-to-man or zone; in fact, basketball inventor James Naismith was a lacrosse player in the late 1800's.
Glen (Pop) Warner, famed football coach, substituted lacrosse at eh Carlisle, PA, Indian School for baseball because, "Lacrosse is a developer of health and strength. It is a game that spectators rave over once the understand it," he said. He undoubtedly had an ulterior motive. Lacrosse, a contact sport, helped prepare his grid warriors for the fall season.
In 1956, the game got a boost when a superior athlete from Syracuse University, Jim Brown, scored six goals for the North in the North-South Lacrosse game. Brown, one of the greatest running backs in the history of the National Football League, admitted he would rather play lacrosse than the grid sport.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association eventually took over the directing of intercollegiate lacrosse, and the first NCAA Lacrosse championship was held in 1971. With the support of the NCAA, the sport has continued to grow as more and more youngsters reenact this modern version of the Indian tribal game.
So the next time a strange looking visitor asks you what those odd-looking sticks are, just refer him to the nearest Jesuit missionary.
Last edited by Kellie19891992; 09-09-2006 at 10:16 AM. Reason: additional information
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