Why Softball? Why Not Baseball?

Why is there no organized baseball for girls, particularly at the high school and college levels? Why do they play softball, instead? Girls play field hockey, basketball, track & field, etc., why not baseball?

There is nothing wrong with softball, of course. It’s a fun game. It just seems odd, watching these girls throw, field, run, and hit, that they are forced to play an inferior variation of baseball. It just seems demeaning (underhanded pitching, anyone?). These girls are perfectly capable of playing baseball, and should be allowed to do so, particulary in school.

So, what’s the straight dope on this?


Mu. (Your question is based on false assumptions.)

Underhanded pitching demeaning?? Have you seen some of these women throw?

Come on. You know as well as I do that women can not hit, throw, run, or for that matter perform any physical activity at the level a man can.

The above statement is a joke and not to be taken seriously.

Dude, I’m not saying that they can’t throw well underhanded. It seems, by forcing them to throw underhanded, where you have less control of the ball, and less velocity, that it’s demeaning. Like, we can’t trust you to throw overhanded, because you are a girl, therefore, we will force you to throw underhanded.

And you support my argument. If they can throw so well underhanded (which I agree with), why not but a baseball in their hands and have them pitch overhanded; Sliders, Curves, Split Fingers, etc.

You seem to be under the mistaken impression that you can’t put a curve on a softball, which I can assure you is patently false.

Anyway, I think that you’re coming at this from the wrong direction. Perhaps there’s no female baseball leagues because they prefer to play softball?

Cmon man, you have a lot more control over a baseball thrown overhanded than you do with a softball thrown underhanded.

How would they know? They have nothing to compare it to. There are no (or virtually no) organized baseball leagues for girls.

No idea, but the odd thing is, of the Europeans I’ve found who played baseball (admittedly, not that many), a lot are actually women. It was a little bit embarassing when I started dating this German au pair and began explaining baseball to her, only to be interrupted by “Yes, I know. I play baseball in Germany.”

Maybe just because YOU have more control overhand doesn’t mean those softball pitchers do. Just watch the really good ones sometime and they can put the ball almost anywhere they want.

Has anyone seen A League of Their Own? I don’t know if there is any truth behind this movie but it sure seems plausible that girls could/did/do play baseball.

I have spent considerable time researching the question “why softball instead of baseball?” The only real answer I found was simply, tradition. Why do 7-12 year old girls play softball? Because that’s what they’ll play in high school. Why do they play softball in high school? Because the college’s play softball, and if you want a scholarship you won’t get one for baseball. Why do they play softball in college? Because all of the girls coming out of high school play softball.

I believe Phish Head’s assumptions about girls/womens softball are almost all wrong. I think perhaps he’s confusing their game with men’s beer league slow pitch softball. Girls can and do through the ball very fast, and at the youth level, it’s my observation that they are usually throwing faster than boys of the same age. ESPN televises a lot of college softball (though the season is over now), and if you watch just a little, you’ll see that they throw just as many breaking balls and off speed pitches as their male counterparts in baseball.

When softball originally emerged as an altenative version of baseball for girls, some minor rule changes were adopted to make the game easier. Almost all of those rules have been dropped or adapted, save for the use of a fourth outfielder and the absence of a pitching mound (which is impractical for underhanded pitchers).

Softball was originally played with a ball that was larger and softer. Now, it’s just as hard as a baseball, and only slightly bigger. Girls and women use an 11 inch ball, while a baseball is typically 9 inches in diameter. Because it is bigger, a softball is easier for beginners to learn to hit. It also makes it harder to throw, particularly for pre-teen girls with small hands.

I think you must mean circumference.

I’ll admit that back in the day softball was probably invented because “girls were weak and can’t throw right.” Now it’s just tradition, aka social inertia.

The specific characters in that movie were fictionalized, but the story of the women’s league is true. The All-American Girls Profesional Baseball League started in the midwest in 1943. The minor leagues had been devestated because so many of their players were serving in the armed forces. The AAGPBL aimed to fill the void. The league thrived even after the men returned, and played until 1954.

There was an all-women’s baseball team called the Silver Bullets which barnstormed in the late 1990s. There were also a handful of women who competed with men at the collegiate and professional level during the 1990s, most notably Julie Croteau and Ila Borders. There was a great surge of interest in women’s baseball in the 1990s, and I was fortunate to cover those teams and those players as a sportswriter. The enthusiasm didn’t last very long, however, and know it seems to have completely disappeared.

It’s not rare to see girls playing on little league teams with boys. An 11-year old girl in my neck of the woods garnered national attention this spring when she threw a no-hitter.

:smack: Indeed. Nine inches in diameter is almost as big as a basketball.

Thanks anson2995. That’s pretty much what I suspected.

Again, my only point was that throwing a baseball overhand, you have more control over the ball, and can throw it faster than a softball thrown underhand.

Why subject girls to an unnatural throwing motion, where you have less control over the ball, with less velocity? These girls have a lot of talent. Why not let them throw a baseball overhand?

I never said girls can’t control the ball, or throw it hard, in softball.

**Phish ** stumbles on the corrollary question here. Why don’t boys play field hockey? The answer is largely the same… tradition. Field hockey emerged in most school districts as a Title IX compliment to football.

And yes, I know that boys play field hockey in California. I just don’t know if they wear the skirts. :smiley:

Phish Head, you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. What are you basing this on? I’m a Division 1 NCAA umpire, and can tell you from personal experience, that fast pitch pitchers can throw drop, curve, change ups, fast balls, and even a rise ball. Furthermore they’re pitching from 40 feet in youth and 43 in college, so the timing of a 50 - 60 mph pitch in fast pitch, is similar to 90 mph from 60 feet, 6 inches in baseball. When the Olympics were in town

Furthermore, I wouldn’t say a baseball thrower has more control in men’s fast pitch either. Check out this article on Rich Hoppe. for some more info, including a pitch being clocked at 105 mph. That’s underhand.

This really gets me. Softball is NOT baseball. It’s not supposed to be. It’s a completely different sport. You’re obviously don’t live in an area where men’s fast pitch is played. It’s an awesome game. You should check out A King and Court some time for the “Harlem Globetrotters” of softball. Four ball players who kicked ass, across the country.

You’re sadly just not educated on the matter.



You’re admitting something you don’t even know to be true.

That’s not why softball was invented. It was invented as a sport to that could be played indoors during cold months up north. Here’s an interesting article on that.

I don’t believe that the underhand motion is any less natural than the overhand throwing motion. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to teach 10 year old girls to pitch than 10-year old boys. The motion is much less complex for girls, and my observation is that the girls have more velocity, not less. I also don’t see any reason to think that the underhanded throwing motion means they have less control. Because their pitching angle tends to be more consistent, I’d actually expect they’d have greater control.

I’d also add that because they are not throwing from an elevated mound, softball pitchers can throw pitches that rise as they approach the plate, something that can’t be done by a baseball pitcher.

I do, however, agree holeheartedly with your general premise – there’s no reason that girls can’t or shouldn’t play baseball.

It is 100% true that woman baseball existed. They have a small wing in Cooperstown.

Girls are allowed to be in Little League and in some leauges are now in the 25% range of the players. I’ve noticed girls seem to prefer soccer but that might be a matter of acceptance. I imagine there must still be at least a subtle prejudice among some little league coaches & players.

The Dope Strikes Again!

Thanks, Enright. I learned something new. I’ve played softball and been an ASA umpire for years, but never knew the origin of the game.

Looking back, I wasn’t very clear. By “control”, I meant “control over what the ball does; It’s movement”.

A baseball thrown overhand has much more movement than a softball thrown underhand. My original point was that I see no reason why a girl shouldn’t be allowed to pitch in a manner that allows the ball to move more.

And Enright3, I’m sorry, but throwing a ball, any ball, overhand allows for greater velocity, period.