Softuel Q. Ballnagle's Semi-Official Rules For the Splendid Game of Softball by Col. Stoopnagle

            Softball differs from regulation Baseball mainly as follows:

                        1.  It is not as interesting.

                        2.  Base Distances: They are not as great as in Baseball, but they seem farther.

                        3.  Bat: When the bats are grown on the Connecticut Bat Farms, the softball bats are picked early before they mature.  This makes them smaller than the regulation baseball bats, I guess.

                        4.  Ball: Stings.

                        5.  Style of pitching: The ball is supposed to be thrown underhand.  This is done by experts.  However, for the ordinary pouchy business man, playing his only game of the season, the Delayed Toss is very popular.  Also the Roll-up and the Pardon Me.

                        6.  Number of players: The game is started with four players, the guy who suggested the game, another guy who thinks he can hit as well as when he was 18, a third party who just happened by, and often Anna May Wong.  (If there’s a radio announcer present, he says: “Anna May Wong, but I think you’re wonderful!”).  As time goes on, there are six, eight, ten, or twelve players up until the second inning, when it becomes a free-for-all.  The game usually ends in the first half of the fifth, with the team in the bleachers watching the audience play.

                        7.  Scoring: On one side of the field there is a scoreboard, where the runs are totaled and exhibited.  Here is a fairly accurate facsimile of the three-inning score of a recent game:

                                                1          2          3          4          5          6          7

            HOME TEAM                1          3          9

            VISITORS                     7          0          0

                        According to the best softball traditions, the score, as I see it, is Home Team, 13; Visitors, 7.  However, the wag who always accompanies the Visitors, yells:  “Look!  We’re ahead seven hundred to a hundred and thirty-five!!!”.  Everyone laughs except an old lady in Section 3, Row 4, Seat 3, who says she can’t understand it.

                        8.  Lowell Thomas: 6:45 P. M. weekdays except Saturday.


            The place where softball is played is called the “diamond.”  Most diamonds I’ve seen are round, but this one is square.  It is the same size as a regulation baseball diamond, only smaller.  There is a “bag” at each base.  The Bloomer Girls have two “bags” at each base -- a regular one and a hay-bag.  There is no bag at home-plate, but when a player hits a home run, it is called a four-bagger.  That is because the scorer can’t count pretty good.


            First you determine where you want the diamond.  It is best where it is not cluttered up with a lot of houses and bushes and stuff, or a factory where the whistle blows all the time and scares the batter.  After the houses and bushes and factory have been razed, remove some of the debris and get a long rope -- oh, ever so long.  Find a Boy Scout and have him tie knots in the rope at regular intervals.  The last knot will be where second base should be.  Then you throw away the rope and put first and third bases just about where you think they should go.  The pitcher’s box is placed a certain distance from home plate.  Then you throw away the Boy Scout.


            Section 1.  The official softball shall be round in shape at first.  After it gets mushy, it is much easier on the hands, so the umpire replaces it with a new ball which is very hard for a softball.  This is quite expensive.  If the umpire has no more new balls, the game is called and the home team wins.

            The home plate shall be of  rubber, porcelain, stone, or any other suitable material, as long as it is resilient.  It is placed directly in front of the catcher so he doesn’t have to run very hard to tag a player running home to it.  If the runner gets there before the catcher, he is said to have made a “run.”  If the runner is Heywood Broun, there is much more applause than usual.

            Gloves may be worn by any player, but it is suggested that he remove them when shaking hands with the hostess.

            Shoes shall be considered official in softball games if they are: (a) Worn; (b) Worn through.  Bare feet are not allowed under any circumstances unless the player has lost his shoes.  In this case, he should report to the Lost and Found Department, where the only pair of shoes they have will be several sizes too small.

            The official softball shall be round in shape at first.  After it gets mushy, it is much easier on the hands, so the umpire replaces it with a new ball which is very hard for a softball.  This is quite expensive.  If the umpire has no more new balls, the game is called and the home team wins.

            (If the above paragraph looks unfamiliar to you, you have not been concentrating, or you are just reading these rules at random.  You will never get anywhere in business, you are subject to attacks of lethargy, and you’ll probably make a fine softball player.)


            A team shall consist of several players, most of whom don’t play very well.  Their positions shall be designated as follows: Catcher, Pitcher, First, Second, Third, Shortstop, Shortfielder, Stout Fella, Left Fielder, Center Fielder, Butterfingers, Right Fielder, and Dale Carnegie.

            No team shall be allowed to continue playing after the other team has left the field in disgust.

            A substitute may take the place of another player, only when that other player is not playing.  The player who is not playing because the substitute has taken his place cannot re-enter the game unless the umpire is too darned easy.  Umpires who absolutely ignore the rules this way should not be allowed to umpire, unless, of course, they insist.

            Players may not pass each other between bases going either way without saying “Pardon Me.”  Politeness is one of the things softball has done a great deal for, and we feel that as the years pass, fans will get to know the game and love it for its politeness, which is a very nice thing, and which is easy once you get the swing of it.  Teach your children softball and the politeness will take care of itself.

            If a pitcher is taken out of the game by the manager, he isn’t supposed to sulk.  If he wants to sulk, the softball field is no place for such goings-on.  In other words, we of softball do not condone the sulking ilk.  (Gene Tunney sulked once for three full innings, but no one dared say anything.)


            Section 1.  A regulation game shall consist of seven innings, unless the players tire, when it shall be any number of innings from 1/2 to 7.  Sometimes in severe thunder showers, teams have been known to run for the clubhouse, where they enjoy several hours of bridge, dice, and off-color stories.  (There was a good one told a week or so ago about a fellow who backed into a live wire, but it is hardly the kind of thing we would tell right here.)

            Section 2.  It is a regulation game if it be called by the umpire on account of darkness, rain, fire, panic, war, pestilence, floods, or a herd of cows which walks right across the very middle of the diamond.  Cows are very dull animals.  If you’ve ever encountered a flock of them in front of you while you’re in a hurry to get home, you will agree.  However, they give us milk for our babies and for our teeth, which is, after all, a fine thing and should be encouraged.

            Section 3.  If the game be a tie at the end of seven innings, a vote is taken among the audience.  Most people believe he’ll run for a third term, but softball has no intention of getting mixed up in politics and will have no truck with it here.

            Section 4.  A regulation “drawn game” shall be declared by the umpire if the score of one team is equal to the score of the other, such as 5-5, 6-6, 7-7.

                        (a)  Mrs. F. W. of Upper Squash, Conn., writes:

                                    Dear Softball Man:  Would it be possible for a game to be called a draw if the score at the end of the game were 18-19?

                                    (Ans,)  Must we name ALL the numbers, Mrs. F. W., before you can understand what I mean?



            The man holding the bat and facing the pitcher, with his back to the catcher, and intending to try to bat is called the batsman, and is not just any old person who happens along.  He must knit his brows menacingly, wiggle his bat as though he were an ogre, complain at all the called strikes, and smile contentedly when a ball is called.

            A batsman must not bat twice in succession.  This is one rule, any infraction of which simply will not be tolerated.  (Of course, if the game is just for fun -- well, that’s a different matter, which will be taken up in another book if this one doesn’t sell well.)

            A batsman must not kneel while batting, nor stand too high on tiptoes, as this confuses the umpire, who is hired to make a loud noise, not to worry about trifles.

            To boil the whole thing down, a batsman must hew to the line and play the game for all it’s worth.  Softball is no place for hedgers.  If you must hedge, go elsewhere, unless you’ll go into the bleachers and sit quietly.


            Just the ordinary, run-of-the-mill stuff. 


            A foul tip is when a batter tips a foul.  In Racehorse parlance, it means something else again.


            Bunting is when a batsman hits a ball half-heartedly and is also used to decorate lodge-halls.  The latter has no place here.


            The batsman is out:

            Section 1.         (a)  If he’s unconscious.

                                    (b)  If he sits down on the bench and refuses to go up to the plate.

                                    (c)  If he slugs the umpire, even though the umpire deserves it, and he usually does.

                                    (d)  If he fails to show up until after the game is over.

                                    (e)  Or are we going too far with this thing?


            Section 1.  (This section usually leaves the station first, but sometimes it’s Section 2, so be alert.)

            The base-runner must touch the bases in legal order -- that is, first, second, third, and home.  If he runs from home to second, then to first, and straight to third, he is considered out, but it’s fun to do and causes considerable merriment among the spectators.

            Only one runner may occupy the same base at the same time.  Otherwise it tends to clog the base and bases are expensive to keep from getting all torn up to shreds.

            A runner running between first and second who gets caught in the act is in a nasty predicament.  First he starts to run to second, and someone throws the ball to the second baseman.  Then the runner starts back toward first and the second baseman throws it back to the first baseman.  This continues for some time, and should be discouraged, as the runner is out nine times out of ten anyway.  When a runner finds he is going to do this, a great deal of time is saved if he will report to the umpire, who declares him out right then and there, and life passes so quickly at best that the few seconds mean a good deal in the long run.

            If a runner fails to touch a base in his flight around the diamond, this has no effect upon the runner following him.  Most people know this anyway, so it’s useless to go into it any further, except to say that a runner SHOULD touch the bases.  That should cover the matter once and for all. 


            One run shall be scored every time a runner comes galloping across the plate, having touched all bases properly and being quite thoroughly out of breath.  The only exception to this rule is that after three outs, nothing counts, whatever you do.


            Umpires are very important, according to the Umpire’s Rule Book, which limits itself to this one statement.  They must be forthright, honest, sincere, straightforward, gruff, kindly, overpowering, blatant, blustering, noisy, conspicuous, obtrusive, coarse, and unrefined.  Umpires have been known to make correct decisions.  Umpires usually live in padded houses in colonies; an umpire will never bite another umpire.  He WILL bite a ballplayer, though, and care should be taken if an umpire is seen running around in circles and frothing at the mouth.

            When a horse breaks his leg, he is immediately shot.

            Some umpires are nice people; no nice people are umpires.

            (a)  What to call an umpire:

            If he calls a strike on you when you know perfectly well it wasn’t over the plate...a “%$&%”&#%&.”

            If he starts to send you from the game....a “***&&***.”

            If you hang on to a ball and he claims you dropped it...a dirty old “!!!!!@@@@@#####%%%%%%%%%.”

            The umpire cannot be changed during a game, even with the consent of the contesting clubs.

            A baby CAN.

[From Softball...So What?, the program for a softball game to benefit the Boys Club of New York, and featuring Lowell Thomas and His Nine Old Men vs. Bob Ripley and His Believe-It-Or-Nots.  Madison Square Garden, May 9, 1939]

* Baseball is something else again.


Page created November 14, 2006.  Copyright 1998-2006 by Richard D. Squires.