Softball in the 1950s and 1960s
In 1952 the international governing body for softball was founded, the International Softball Federation (ISF) was founded. Slowpitch softball was recognized officially a year later, in 1953, when it was added in ASA (now USA Softball) softball program. The ISF now has 124 member federations and organizes world championship competitions in all versions of softball: slow pitch, fast pitch and modified pitch. 1965 was a very big year for softball; the first ever Women’s Softball World Championship was held in Melbourne, Australia. Australia were crowned World Champions with the runners up being United States. The tournament is still being organized; the most crowned country in history of the tournament is United States with 15 medals, 11 gold and 4 silver. The second most successful country is Japan with 11 medals, 3 gold, 6 silver and 2 bronze. The men’s version of the tournament began a year later, in 1966. New Zealand is the most crowned country with 13 medals followed by United States with 9 medals.
History Of College Softball
In the early 1970s softball was expanding and becoming more and more popular. In that time, colleges in the US started giving scolarships to help girls study and continue to play the sport they love. 1982 was another big year for softball, NCAA Women’s College World Series has started and has been played every year ever since. The first final was between UCLA and Fresno State with UCLA coming out as a winner. The NCAA Division I Softball tournament is happening every year with 64 teams participating. The 8 best teams move on to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS). Oklahoma City is the host of WCWS, with the games being played in ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Omaha, Nebraska was a host in the first five years of the tournament and Sunnyvale, California was a host for the next two years. Since 1990, the final was being held in Oklahoma City with an exception of one year, 1996, when it was held in Columbus. UCLA is the most successful team in the history of the WCWS with 12 titles, with Arizona and Oklahoma trailing with 8 and 4, respectively.
History of Softball in the Olympic Games
First efforts to place the sport of softball in the Summer Olympics started way back in the 1940s. Those efforts continued in the following decades: the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The biggest hope until then that a sport of softball could be included in Olympics came with the 1984 Olympics held mainly in Los Angeles, USA. Softball was finally included in the Olympics in 1995 for the 1996 Olympics hosted by Atlanta. That was the biggest success for the sport in it’s entire history. 8 countries competed for the medal then and that number of competing countries still stands today. Softball was an Olympic sport for the upcoming three editions of the Summer Olympics: the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, 2004 Olympics in Athens, 2008 Olympics in Beijing. United States has the most gold medals, 3, and the only country that has a gold medal in softball is Japan, a country were softball is extremely popular. The third place belong to Australia who has 4 medals, one silver and three bronze medals. Softball was dropped from the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 in London and Rio de Janerio, respectively. But, softball will be back in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics along with baseball. Bringing back the sport of softball in the Summer Olympics is huge for the sport and it will surely be even more popular. In the next Olympics there will be 6 countries who will be competing for gold medal: United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Italy and Australia.
Below you can see the winners of gold, silver and bronze medals from the 4 editions of Summer Olympics in which softball was a part of.
Softball’s popularity across the world
As international softball tournaments began to take place, so began the increase in the game’s popularity all around the globe. Countries where softball is extremely popular other then the US are Japan, Australia, New Zealand. Japan is a gold medal winner from the 2008 Beijing Olympics so there is no surprise that softball is so popular in Japan. To show you how much softball is popular in Japan – a game was held in Tokyo Dome in 2016 between USA and Japan which had more then 30000 people in attendance.
In New Zealand softball became popular way back in the 1930s and is generally played by men now. New Zealand’s woman’s national team has qualified for the Olympics once in Sydney 2000 and didn’t won a medal. In Australia, on the other hand, softball is generally a woman’s sport and their national team in quite successful, winning 4 Olympic medals.
The game in the modern day
You can see now why softball is so popular around the world and why it just keep growing. It has many tournaments across the world, both amateur and professional and will also be featured in the next Olympics which have all surely contributed to it’s growing popularity. It is just a lot of joy and fun to play this great game so if you get a chance to play you should give it a try.