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softball, variant of baseball played with a larger ball on a smaller field. Invented (1888) in Chicago as an indoor game, it was at various times called indoor baseball, mush ball, playground ball, kitten ball, and, because it was also played by women, ladies' baseball. The name softball was given to the game in 1926. A tournament (1933) at the Chicago World's Fair spurred interest in the game. The Amateur Softball Association of America (founded 1933) governs the game in the United States and sponsors annual sectional and world series championships. The International Softball Federation regulates rules of play in more than 110 countries, including the United States and Canada. Women's fast-pitch softball became an Olympic sport in 1996, but it (and baseball) were dropped beginning with the 2012 games.

Despite the name, the ball used is not soft. It is about 12 in. (30 cm) in circumference (sometimes larger for slow-pitch), which is 3 in. (8 cm) larger than a baseball. The infield in softball is smaller than in baseball; each base is 60 ft (18 m) from the next, as opposed to baseball's 90 ft (27 m). There are two types of softball: in the most common, slow-pitch softball, the ball, sometimes larger than the standard 12 in, must arch on its path to the batter, 10 players make up a team, and bunting and stealing are prohibited; in fast-pitch softball the pitch is fast, there are 9 players on a team, and bunting and stealing are permitted. Softball rules vary somewhat from those of baseball. Two major differences are that the ball must be pitched underhand—from 46 ft (14 m) for men or 40 ft (12 m) for women as compared with 60.5 ft (18.4 m) in baseball—and that seven innings instead of nine constitute a regulation game.


See M. Pagnoni and G. Robinson, Softball: Fast and Slow Pitch (1990).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a sport played with a ball. Softball is closely related to baseball, but it is played on a smaller field. It originated in the United States in the early 20th century as a way of training baseball players in winter. The first official rules were published in 1906. In 1974 the International Softball Federation (ISF), which was founded in 1952, had more than 50 national federations and included 28 million athletes. World championships for men and women have been held every other year since the 1960’s. Softball is most popular in the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, and several Latin-American countries, especially Mexico and Cuba. The ISF was recognized in 1967 by the International Olympic Committee . Softball is not played in the USSR.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a variation of baseball using a larger softer ball, pitched underhand
2. the ball used
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Lorie Arm Horner, along with eleven other plaintiffs, sued the KHSAA alleging it violated Title IX by not sanctioning girls' fast-pitch softball while sanctioning boys' baseball, the male equivalent sport.
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A professional fast-pitch softball hurler himself, Smith whips the old phone out of a drawer when asked how he turned a legal pad and a pipe dream into a headhunting empire.
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He said one of his proudest accomplishments is helping to bring girls' fast-pitch softball to Auburn.
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