16-inch softball (sometimes called mushball, cabbageball or blooperball) is a variant of softball, but using a bigger, squishier ball with no gloves or mitts on the fielders. Although it most closely resembles the original game as developed in the 19th century by George Hancock, today it remains popular almost exclusively in Chicago but is also popular in Portland, Oregon, where Mushball has had leagues since the 1960s. The first set of rules were published in 1937 by the Amateur Softball Association, in the same manual as the rules for fastpitch softball.
16 inch softball game play is mostly consistent with standard softball game play. 16 inch softball, compared to standard or 12 inch softball, is played with a ball 16" in circumference. Leagues may form co-ed teams, all-male or all-female teams. Additionally, teams may choose competitive or recreational leagues. There may be rule variations associated with the specific field or league of play. When playing in a co-ed league, there may be other rules that apply related to the male to female ratio of team members and batting order. The National Softball Association (NSA) also has a published set of rules governing 16 inch softball play.
The earliest known softball game of any kind was played in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day 1887. The first softball was a wrapped up boxing glove and the bat was a broom. Harvard and Yale students invented the game while waiting to hear the results of the annual Harvard-Yale football game. Until the turn of the 20th century, ball sizes ranged from 12 to 17 inches in circumference. The 16 inch softball was eventually adopted in Chicago because it didn't travel as far as the popular 12 or 14 inch balls. This allowed for play on smaller playgrounds or even indoors accommodating the Chicago landscape and climate. Another advantage of the 16 inch ball was that it allowed everyone to play barehanded. Gloves were a rare luxury as the Great Depression hit Chicago particularly hard.
After the first national championship held in 1933 at the Century of Progress World's Fair, the sport grew in popularity. A professional league was formed that lasted through the 1950s. Teams drew crowds of over 10,000 each night. Leagues continue today but not at the same level of popularity. There are co-ed recreational leagues, competitive leagues and even a league for Chicago Public School students.
League and tournament play
Many local organizations host regular season play, typically weekly games, as well as their own playoff systems. National organizations, such as the NSA, host a variety of tournaments. By placing well in NSA tournaments, teams can qualify and compete for the 16 inch softball world series. Because local leagues may have slight variations in rules, the NSA world series is played by its own set of world series rules. One notable change is that Chicago area players, who typically are not allowed to wear gloves, may choose to wear gloves in world series games.
In the Bay City, Michigan area the game is known as "blooperball". Bay City Blooperball is a league for those players forty years old and over. The games are played with an official DeBeer Clincher 16" ball. The league provides a quality recreational experience for ballplayers as they enter another phase of their careers. There are two ball fields located at Defoe Park in Bay City Michigan. Together with the two blooperball fields Defoe Park provides the venue for "The Rehab", a popular charity blooperball event that has taken place the weekend after Labor day, for almost forty years. Ten teams and over 150 players participate in the 40 & Over Blooperball League. The Bay City players do use gloves during play because the ball tends to be hit very hard by the batters. Blooperball has been played in the area continuously since the 1930s down to the present.
Hall of Fame
Organization Mission: The Chicago 16" Softball Hall of Fame has been formed to promote the great game that started in Chicago by honoring and recognizing the game's best players, teams and supporters.
In 1996 Al Maag and Tony Reibel established the 16" softball hall of fame. Since inception, the organization has held annual inductee dinners that are attended by over 600 guests. The organization is currently raising money to erect a museum in Forest Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The Chicago 16" Softball Hall of Fame is a registered 501(c) not-for-profit organization.
Notable celebrities associated with the sport
- Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko loved 16-inch softball.
- United States Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan played 16-inch softball while she was a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School.
- Lettuce Entertain You Founder Rich Melman
- Radio sports personality Mike North
- Chicago radio legend and podcast innovator Steve Dahl
- Shanburn, Eric (2008). Basketball and Baseball Games: For the Driveway, Field Or the Alleyway. AuthorHouse. p. 73. ISBN 1-4343-8912-X.
- Dickson, Paul (1999). The new Dickson baseball dictionary: a cyclopedic reference to more than 7,000 words, names, phrases, and slang expressions that define the game, its heritage, culture, and variations. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 96. ISBN 0-15-600580-8.
- The sport is known as "cabbageball" in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- Blackwell, Elizabeth Canning (2004). Frommer's Irreverent Guide to Chicago. Frommer's. p. 134. ISBN 0-7645-7304-7.
- Martens, Rainer and Julie (2010). Complete Guide to Slowpitch Softball. Human Kinetic. p. 4. ISBN 0-7360-9406-7.
- "Chicago Sport and Social Rules". Retrieved 2011-04-15.
- "Chicago Sport and social Rules". Retrieved 2011-04-15.
- "2011 NSA Rule Book". Retrieved 2011-04-15.
- "Chicago 16 INCH Softball Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2011-04-19.
- "Play NSA Website". Retrieved 2011-04-15.
- "16" Softball Hall of Fame". hall of fame. Retrieved 2011-04-17.
- Newman, Craig (2010-04-13). "Mike Royko holds court at the Billy Goat on softball". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Secter, Bob (2010-05-11). "Kagan draws raves from U. of C. students, colleagues". Chicago Tribune.
- Dahl, Steve. "Steve Dahl Show". Dahl.com. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
- National Geographic Society (January 1978). National geographic 153 (1).
- U.S. Camera Pub. Corp. (1976). Travel & leisure 6.