The earliest known softball game was played in Chicago, Illinois on Thanksgiving Day, 1887. It took place at the Farragut Boat Club to hear the outcome of the Yale and Harvard football game. When the score was announced and bets were settled, a Yale alumnus threw a boxing glove at a Harvard supporter. The other person grabbed a stick and swung at it. George Hancock called out "Play ball!" and the game began, with the boxing glove tightened into a ball, a broom handle serving as a bat. This first contest ended with a score of 41-40. The ball, being soft, was fielded barehanded.
George Hancock is credited as the game's inventor for his development of ball and an undersized bat in the next week. The Farragut Club soon set rules for the game, which spread quickly to outsiders. Envisioned as a way for baseball players to maintain their skills during the winter, the sport was called "Indoor Baseball". ; the bases are arranged in a square and are typically 45 to 65 feet apart. Near the center of this square is the pitcher's circle, and within the circle is the "rubber", a small flat rectangular piece of rubber about a foot and a half in length. The rubber can be 40 or 43 feet away from home plate, depending on age level and also the league one is playing in. The object of the game is to score more runs than the other team by batting a ball into play and running around the bases, touching each one in succession. The ball is a sphere of light material, covered with leather or synthetic material. It is 10 to 12 inches in circumference. The game is officiated by one or more neutral umpires. Players and umpires are generally free to ask for a brief stoppage at any time when the ball is not in play, or immediately following a play once its outcome is clear.
The game is played in a series of innings, usually 7. There is no time limit or clock as in other sports, although amateur leagues often impose a time limit for practical reasons. An inning is one series of both teams playing offense and defense. Each inning is divided into a top half and a bottom half indicating which team is playing which role. The offense bats and attempts to score runs, while the defense occupies the field and attempts to record outs in a variety of ways. After the defense records 3 outs, the half inning is over