Softball is a variant of baseball played with a larger ball on a smaller field. It was invented in 1887 in Chicago as an indoor game. It was at various times called indoor baseball, mush ball, playground, softball, kitten ball, because it was also played by women, ladies' baseball. The name softball was given to the game in 1926.
A tournament held in 1933 at the Chicago World's Fair spurred interest in the game. The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America (founded 1933) governs the game in the United States and sponsors annual sectional and World Series championships. The World Basebal Softball Confederation (WBSC) regulates rules of play in more than 110 countries, including the United States and Canada; before the WBSC was formed in 2013, the International Softball Federation filled this role. Women's fast pitch softball became a Summer Olympic sport in 1996, but it (and baseball) was dropped from the 2012 Games; they will be reinstated for the 2020 Games.
Each team wears a distinctive uniform. The uniform may include a cap or visor, a shirt, tight sliding undershorts, socks, and pants; these are the components for which standards are set. Caps, visors, and headbands are optional for female players, and sometimes have to be the same color. Caps are mandatory for male players. A fielder who chooses to wear a helmet is not required to wear a cap.
Many female players use "sliding shorts", otherwise known as compression shorts in other sports. These shorts help to protect the upper thigh when sliding into a base. "Sliders" may also be worn for similar protection. These are somewhat padded shin guards that extend usually from the ankle to the knee of the wearer and wrap all the way around the legs. They protect the shin, calf, etc. from getting bruised or damaged while sliding into home plate and make it much more comfortable to slide into the plate. Most male players use long, baseball-style pants. However, some female players now wear a shorter version of baseball pants. At the back of the uniform, an Arabic numeral from numbers 0 through 99 must be visible. Numbers such as 02 and 2 are considered identical. Also, on the back of the uniforms players' names are optional.
All players are required to wear shoes. They may have cleats or spikes. The spikes must extend less than 0.75 inch (19 mm) away from the sole. Rounded metal spikes are illegal, as are ones made from hard plastic or other synthetic materials. High school athletes are sometimes permitted to wear metal cleats, such as in Ohio. Many recreational leagues prohibit the use of metal cleats or spikes to reduce the possible severity of injuries when a runner slides feet-first into a fielder. At all youth (under 15) levels, in co-ed (the official terminology for mixed teams) slow pitch, and in modified pitch, metal spikes are usually not allowed.
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