Softball player swinging her bat

Softball's Unexpected Origins

The IGHSAU Girls State Softball tournament is almost here! The end of July brings Iowa high school girls together to compete in the state softball tournament. We are thrilled to continue our live coverage of the championship games, so much so we decided to do a deep dive into the history of softball. 

Softball originated in Chicago during the 1940s during a Harvard vs. Yale football game. Supporters of each team were waiting to hear the final score. As the news came in that Yale won, a Harvard fan threw his boxing glove at the Yale fans. A Yale supporter swung at the glove with a stick. Entertained by what they witnessed, other fans joined in on the fun! The game caught on throughout the city, and they created the first official rules. 

Throughout history, people have called softball a variety of different things. Other names included indoor baseball, kitten ball, mush ball, pumpkin ball and diamond ball. Our personal favorite is kitten ball. 

Softball grew in popularity and was added as an official school sport in 1955 by the IGHSAU. The winner of the first state championship was Battle Creek. 

Following the success and interest in playing after the first season, high schools could compete in a fall and summer league. Each league had its own tournament, which lasted until 1988, when volleyball became popular.

With fewer players in the fall, they stopped having a tournament and only the summer league continued. Iowa is the only state in the country that has continued with the tradition of summer ball. All other states play softball in the spring.

Good luck to all the teams competing in the state tournament this year. Let’s play ball!

Each game will be broadcast live on statewide Iowa PBS and livestreamed on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and

Live coverage of this year’s games will be as follows*:

Thursday, July 20

5 p.m. | Class 5A

7:30 p.m. | Class 4A

Friday, July 21

2:30 p.m. | Class 3A

5 p.m. | Class 2A

7:30 p.m. | Class 1A

*Coverage and start times are subject to change.