Saturday, July 17, 2021

Monongahela mushball recap

This week I learned there's a thing called mushball while browsing through and coming across the above article ("Eldora, Sigs sweep mush ball battles") from 90 years ago this month. It's from the July 15, 1931, edition of The Daily Republican of Monongahela, Pennsylvania.1 

Mushball is also known, according to Wikipedia, as 16-inch softball, clincher, cabbageball, puffball, blooperball, smushball and Chicago ball. I'm not entirely sure I've ever heard of any of those. And I was a newspaper sports editor for many, many years. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn.

In a nutshell, mushball is a variant of softball with a larger, mushier ball. The fielders do not wear gloves. The sport dates to at least 1887. The large, mushy ball allows for the game to be played on a smaller field. (The ball will not travel far when hit, even if Shohei Ohtani or Bryce Harper is the one doing the batting. As Sharon Kennedy Wynne wrote for the Tampa Bay Times in 2008, "The good players can't hit the ball too far, and even the most mediocre player can't miss that cantaloupe coming over the plate, so just about everybody gets a hit.") And having a sport in which gloves aren't needed was quite popular, especially during the Great Depression, because gloves are expensive.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan is among those who have played the sport, which remains popular today.

There's even a Hall of Fame for 16-inch softball in Illinois.

1. Other headlines from that same Sports page:
  • Washington netmen book two matches
  • Bentleyville team whips Charleroi in Upper Valley loop
  • Lucky Boys swamp B.-T.
  • Rogersville bumps Charleroi Whippets
  • Monessen Firemen whip Floreffe to even ball series
  • Indians club out win over Garagemen, 13-2

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