Category: Bill Plummer

The History of Balls & Strikes

Through many name and format changes, the current “Balls and Strikes” magazine has been a mainstay throughout the growth of the organization. It was started in 1933 by the founders and continued through the efforts of countless ASA staff.

When Leo Fischer and M.J. Pauley founded the Amateur Softball Association 75 years ago, they – and in particular Fischer – wanted a way to communicate with the handful of commissioners of the newly-formed organization. In time the organization would peak at 110 local association commissioners.

Fischer, then a sportswriter who would eventually become sports editor of the Chicago American, suggested that a bulletin be mailed each month to the commissioners to keep them informed on what was going on in the Association. The name of this bulletin was “Soft-Balls and Strikes.”

Originally in mimeograph form, this bulletin became a newspaper in 1938 when it was included in a publication called “Softball” that was printed by the Michigan Softball Association, Lansing, Mich., and sold for $1 per year. “Softball” was printed twice each month during June, July and August and once each the remaining months of the year.

In 1937 and 1938, however, the ASA produced the first printed issues of “Softballs and Strikes” and distributed 5000 copies each of these souvenir issues, which highlighted the respective national championships. Each 32-page issues contained pictures and articles about the national championship. These two issues sold for 25 cents each plus 5 cents for mailing. “Softball” eventually became “Softball News” and continued to devote a page to “Soft-Balls and Strikes” until June of 1942 when it discontinued the publication. This resulted in the ASA switching back to the mimeograph machine to produce “Soft-Balls and Strikes”. And, in 1947, the name “Soft-Balls and Strikes” was shortened to its present name “Balls and Strikes”.

In April of 1947, the Balls and Strikes format was changed to a 7-column newspaper with four pages each issue and the subscription price still $1 per year. “Balls and Strikes” remained a 7-column newspaper until increasing costs forced the publication to go back to the mimeograph following the August, 1948 issue. In that issue, M.J. Pauley wrote an editorial about the swan song of Balls and Strikes and himself as editor of the ASA’s official publication. Just prior to the January 30, 1949 annual meeting in Chicago, Pauley resigned as ASA executive secretary, ending 16 years of service to the ASA.

Balls and Strikes remained a mimeograph, however, only a few months because in Nov-Dec., 1948, it was changed to a 4-column tabloid and remained a tabloid until the ASA changed to a slick magazine in 1980.

ASA switched Balls and Strikes back to a four-column tabloid in 1982 and the publication remained in that form until 1996 when another attempt at a magazine was made.

The evolutionary circle continued because of rising costs and a lack of advertising, in 1999 Balls and Strikes was changed from five issues to two—a season preview in February and a national championship/ season recap issue in the fall. On March 1, 1999, the ASA launched its first issue of Balls and Strikes on its website. Little did Fischer and the other people involved with the formation of the ASA realize the strides softball and Balls and Strikes would make together.

And, from all indications, it appears that the best is yet to come for softball and the ASA, which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2008 with the National Council meeting scheduled in Oklahoma City.

You can find current issues of Balls & Strikes magazines at

The Birth of Softball

The Official explanation of “The Birth of Softball” as written by Bill Plummer III

Softball was invented on a blustery, windy day in November 1887 in Chicago, IL inside the Farragut Boat Club. There a bunch of Yale and Harvard alumni anxiously awaited the results of the Harvard-Yale football game. When the news came that Yale had defeated Harvard, 17-8, one Yale supporter, overcome with enthusiasm, picked up an old boxing glove and threw it at a nearby Harvard alumni, who promptly tried to hit it back with a stick. This gave George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, an idea. He suggested a game of indoor baseball. Naturally, Hancock’s friends thought he was talking about playing a game outdoors, not indoors. Hancock, however, wasn’t kidding. Using what was available, he tied together the laces of a boxing glove for a ball. Using a piece of chalk, Hancock marked off a home plate, bases and a pitcher’s box inside the Farragut Boat Club gymnasium, with the two groups divided into two teams. The final score of the game was 41-40, but what was significant was that Hancock and his friends had invented a sport that would grow in popularity to where today more than 25 million people enjoy playing it in the United States and millions more internationally in more than 100 countries.

Hancock’s invention eventually caught on in Chicago with the Farragut team challenging other gyms to games. In the spring, Hancock took his game outdoors and played it on fields not large enough for baseball. It was called indoor-outdoor and Hancock emerged as the recognized authority in the 19th century. Hancock appended 19 special rules to adapt the outdoor game to the indoor game. The rules were officially adopted by the Mid-Winter Indoor Baseball League of Chicago in 1889.

Hancock’s game gradually spread throughout the country and ultimately flourished in Minneapolis thanks to the efforts and ingenuity of Louis Rober, a Minneapolis Fire Department lieutenant, who wanted to game to keep his firemen fit during idle time. Using a vacant lot adjacent to the firehouse, Rober laid out bases with a pitching distance of 35 feet. His ball was a small sized medicine ball with the bat two inches in diameter. The game became popular overnight and other fire companies began to play.

In 1895, Rober transferred to another fire company and organized a team he called the Kittens. George Kehoe, captain of the Truck Company No. 1, named Rober’s version of softball “Kitten Ball.” Rober’s game was known as Kitten Ball until 1925 when the Minneapolis Park Board changed it to Diamond Ball, one of at least a dozen names used during this time for softball. The name softball didn’t come about until 1926 when Walter Hakanson, a Denver YMCA official and a former ASA president and commissioner, suggested it to the International Joint Rules Committee. Hakanson had come up with the name in 1926, but the committee didn’t include the ASA until 1934.

Efforts to organize softball on a national basis didn’t materialize until 1933 when Leo Fischer and Michael J. Pauley, a Chicago Sporting Goods salesman, conceived the idea of organizing thousands of teams in America into cohesive state and metro organizations and state/metro organizations into a national organization. To bring the teams together, Fisher and Pauley invited them to participate in a tournament in conjunction with the ’33 World’s Fair in Chicago. With the backing of the Chicago American newspaper, Pauley and Fisher invited 55 teams to participate in the tournament. Teams were divided into three classes–fastballers, slow pitch and women. A 14-inch ball was used with a single elimination format.

During the 1934 National Recreation Congress, membership on the Joint Rules Committee was expanded to add the ASA.  Until the formation of the ASA, softball was in a state of confusion, especially in the rules area where the length of the bases and pitcher’s box (mound) were constantly being changed. Depending on the state they were playing in, teams often played under different rules. The formation of the ASA gave softball the solidarity and foundation it needed to grow and develop throughout the U.S. under the network of associations proposed by Pauley and Fisher. Pauley and Fisher visited many of the states inviting teams to participate in the tournament. Fischer and his sports promotion director, Harry Wilson, sold the Century of Progress Exposition on the idea of sponsoring the tournament and providing a field inside the Fair Grounds. The American’s sports pages promoted the tournament daily and Chicago businessmen raised $500 to finance the event.

On the opening day of the 1933 tournament, the Chicago American said, “It is the largest and most comprehensive tournament ever held in the sport which has swept the country like wildfire.” With admission free, 70,000 people saw the first round of play. Chicago teams won the three divisions of play with ASA National Softball Hall of Famer Harry (Coon) Rosen leading the J.L. Friedman Boosters to the men’s title, one-hitting the famed Briggs Beautyware of Detroit, MI in the finals. It was the first loss of the season for Briggs after 41 consecutive wins. It was evident that softball finally had a foundation from which to grow and in 1935, the Playground Association Softball guide wrote, “The years of persistent effort, constant promotion and unchanging faith of believers in softball proved to have not been in vain, for in 1934 softball came into its own.

All over America hundreds of leagues and thousands of players enthusiastically accepted this major team game. “The promotional activities of the ASA played an important part in stimulating the interest that has been developing for many years. The battle for recognition of this splendid game is over. Softball has won a place among America’s foremost sports.” The recognition of the sport increased tremendously when softball was finally accepted as an Olympic sport in 1991, thanks to the efforts of former ASA Executive Director and International Softball Federation President, Don E. Porter, who spent numerous hours and traveled thousands of miles lobbying for softball to be accepted on the Olympic program. That became a reality in 1996 in Atlanta, GA where the softball competition was an overwhelming success drawing more than 120,000 people to Golden Park in Columbus, GA. The USA won the first-ever gold medal in softball and repeated as gold medalists in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia where another attendance record was set. In 2004, softball will again be part of the Olympics in Athens, Greece. Besides the Olympics, softball also is an official Pan American sport, and is played in various international tournaments and events sanctioned by the International Softball Federation, which is in its sparkling new offices in Plant City, FL after sharing office space with the ASA for many years.

First a Pan Am demonstration sport in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967, softball was officially added to the Pan American program in 1979, with both men’s and women’s fast pitch softball contested. The Pan American Games is held every four years. The persistent efforts of thousands of people and their faith in a sport that was conceived inside the Farragut Boat Club has been well worth the effort because softball is America’s game and reached the pinnacle of the sports world in 1996 that for many years some people thought would never happen. Fortunately, there were enough people who believed softball belonged on the Olympic program, and after the record-setting past two Olympic Games there isn’t any more doubt where softball belongs. Softball has found its place–not only in the hearts and souls of the people who play but those who watch it in the Olympic arena.


Steve Dimitry: A softball fanatic

Steve Dimitry: A softball fanatic

By Bill Plummer III

Softball fanatic. That’s Steve Dimitry of Norristown, Pa.

By day, he’s a software engineer for Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia, Pa. By night, he’s a slow pitch player who also spends a couple hours each week updating his website. “Steve Dimitry’s Slow Pitch Softball History Page”, which is comparable to browsing a softball encyclopedia. The website is:

“It’s the most comprehensive, all-embracing, all-inclusive and extensive treatment of the game since its inception” wrote Mark Linnemann, editor of Cincinnati SOFTBALL News in the March 2002 edition.

Steve’s website has information on slow pitch as well as fast pitch and from college to pro softball. There is a section on legends of the game (slow pitch) complete with stats and photos. “All the information you ever wanted to know about slow pitch softball is in here,” says the introduction. The site covers all national championships of all the softball organizations, past and present, and from men’s and women to seniors.

A 1982 graduate of West Chester State, Steve started his website in 1998 after finding out information wasn’t available about some of the softball greats his Dad, James, had played against during his softball career playing fast pitch and slow pitch for Grumman. People like Jim Galloway, Bert Smith and H.T. Waller. A frequent visitor to the Dimitry home when Steve was growing up was Hall of Fame fast pitch pitcher Roy Stephenson.

“I looked on the internet and couldn’t find anything about them,” said Steve. “Then I checked some old copies of Balls and Strikes. (ASA’s official publication).”

Dimitry eventually met the late Jerome Earnest, former softball historian and writer who chronicled slow pitch softball for more than two decades before his untimely death April 9th, 2000. “He had a lot of information,” Dimitry said. “I realized then that my Dad wasn’t pulling my leg and had played against these guys.”

Steve went as far to call some of the Hall of Famers, requesting information from them, including

Myron Reinhardt, a member of the ASA National Hall of Fame who was instrumental in helping establish slow pitch’s identity on America’s softball fields when it was added to the ASA championship program in 1953.

“I was kinda like a detective in trying to find his name in the phone book,” Dimitry said. “I eventually found him in Alexandria, Kentucky and he sent me a pile of stuff. And what a nice person.”

Steve has since continued to contact ball players and has appreciated their “help and cooperation” in making his website as accurate and complete as possible.

“I enjoy doing it,” Dimitry said. “And I still enjoy playing slow pitch. I started out as an outfielder but I’ve slowed down a bit so I’ve switched to catching and DH.”

As a player rep for District 14 of the Pennsylvania ASA, Steve was instrumental in helping to upgrade the Pennsylvania website, and was honored with the ASA of PA Media Award in 2003.

“I got to know him (Steve) through the Pennsylvania ASA,” said Guy DeMaio. “Steve’s been a tireless worker and put a lot of effort in locating information and putting it all together.’’

Dimitry has gone above and beyond in providing a valuable service to softball aficionados that otherwise wouldn’t exist. They should be thankful Dimitry cares that much for a thankless task that is time consuming, yet rewarding and satisfying.


Bill Plummer

In Loving Memory of
Bill Plummer III
September 3, 1944 – April 9, 2016

William (Bill) Hamilton Plummer, III, 71, died unexpectedly of a heart attack while driving on April 9, 2016 in Oklahoma City, OK. Bill was involved in softball for more than 4 decades. A native of Syracuse, NY, Bill was a 1962 graduate of Liverpool High School and worked for the Syracuse Herald Journal prior to enlistment in the Air Force. Following his honorable discharge, he pursued his love of sports writing. Bill graduated from the University of Indiana/ Bloomington in 1973 and moved to Oklahoma City in 1979. During his career, he served as a sports writer and baseball scout, and for over 30 years was employed by the Amateur Softball Association National Office in Oklahoma City (1979-2009) as the communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and ASA Historian. Bill wrote widely about the sport and contributed to 14 books, including writing one and co-authoring two, plus contributing to the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World Sport. In 2008, he authored “The Game America Plays: Celebrating 75 Years of the Amateur Softball Association,” and was a major contributor to the book, “Softball’s Lefty Legend: Ty Stofflet” by Dr. Steve Clarfield in 2004. He and Clarfield were co-authors of a new book on fast pitch softball, “Best of the Best-Women’s Fast Pitch Softball” which came out in January 2012. And in May of 2013, Plummer and Larry C. Floyd of Oklahoma City coauthored “A Series of Their Own…The History of the Women’s College World Series,” the first book ever done tracing the history of the Women’s College World Series. The book was named Oklahoma Sports Historian of the Year for 2014. Bill has been elected to five Halls of Fame, including the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame plus state Halls of Fame in Oklahoma, Indiana, Tidewater and New York State. In 1996, he served as the Information Manager for ACOG for the debut of softball in the Olympics plus the 1987 and 1995 Pan American Games. Although he retired from the ASA in 2009, Plummer was very involved in the sport, serving on the selection committee for the Lowe’s CLASS softball winner each year, a contributing editor to Fast Pitch Magazine, an online fast pitch magazine, as well as writing for In the past, he’s been a stringer for the AP covering the NCAA Women’s College World Series. He also worked for Anaconda Trump, Lake Katrine, N.Y in outside sales. Bill is survived by his sister, Eileen Orth-Sokolowski Flatt (Dan) of Chandler, Arizona, sister, Lori Plummer Howard (Robert), brother Eric L. Plummer (Amy) of Peachtree Corners, GA, as well as brother Robert K. Plummer of Liverpool, New York and several nieces and nephews. Donations in Bill’s memory can be forwarded to the Amateur Softball Association, 2801 NE 50th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73111.

Bill Plummer III, Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Manager announced his Retirement effective as of December 31, 2009 and will be stepping down from the ASA National Office. He is the greatest softball historian of all time.  He has written a couple of books on the great history of this game. The first one is the Softball’s Hall of Famerbook and it chronicles the history of the ASA National Softball of Fame in Oklahoma City and has a bio on all the inductees. The second book is called “The Game America Plays: Celebrating 75 years of the Amateur Softball Association” Bill worked on this book for a long time and it commemorates the ASA’s 75th Anniversary through historical photographs and personal stories. Relive the greatest moments in softball history with this engaging narrative of America’s favorite participation sport. With never-before-published photographs and vignettes from players, umpires, and coaches, this is a must-read for every player, coach and fan of softball. Bill was most deservingly inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame in 1999. His last book is titled “Women’s Fast Pitch Softball, The Best of the Best.

Bill Plummer retires from the National ASA Office on December 31, 2009

Bill Plummer retires from ASA after 30 years.  A pioneer for the ASA, Plummer’s legacy to the nation’s top softball association will forever be remembered as he has been a pillar to the sport and the membership. “I am concluding my career with ASA with 30 ½ years and it has been really enjoyable,” said the 1999 ASA Hall of Famer for meritorious service. “I’ve traveled to the far corners of the world plus visited many of the U.S. cities in the best interest of the ASA. Along the way I’ve worked with some of the best and most dedicated people of this organization who have spent countless hours and effort to move the ASA forward.” Plummer joined the ASA National Office in May of 1979. From 1979 to 1996 he served as the Director of Public and Media Relations for the ASA. Most recently he served as the Hall of Fame manager, a duty that assistant director of marketing and communications. Holly Krivokapich will take over. He was also the editor of the Inside Pitch newsletter and the trade show, which will now be done by coordinator of marketing and communications Jamie Blanchard.  “I have some great memories,” added Plummer. “I’ll never forget the pageantry and excitement of the debut of softball in the Olympics in 1996. That will be a memory that I will always cherish. I’ve been fortunate to travel to different countries to help promote softball. My trip to the Czech Republic a couple years ago with our USA National Men’s Team will always be No. 1 on my list of trip memories. And celebrating the 75th anniversary last year will always hold a soft spot in my heart. It was a gala celebration and having the book (THE GAME AMERICA PLAYS: CELEBRATING 75 YEARS OF THE AMATEUR SOFTBALL ASSOCIATION) there was an added benefit.”


This man knows more about Softball History than any man alive in the United States today. He has helped me many times over with information on this site and I want to take the time to thank him for all he’s done for me. I still miss talking to him to this day. The link above is an article he wrote many years ago on the origins of softball. Anybody that must do a research project on the History of Softball need not look any further than that page.

Click here for his ASA Hall of Fame Bio Page – Bill Plummer ASA Hall of Fame Bio

I will put his ASA Hall of Fame Bio here to read. But please click on the page to see the actual one. Sometimes if you click on the link, it will just take you to the USA Softball Site and then you have to click on Resources and then National Hall of Fame and then Members and then Search Meritorious Service and then click on his name. In case you don’t have time, here it is.

Bill Plummer III

Was employed at the ASA National Office for 30 ½ years (May 6 1979 to Dec. 31, 2009) and served as communications coordinator and Hall of Fame Services Manager/Historian. He was instrumental in softball attaining world-wide media coverage and recognition through his efforts as press officer at two Pan American Games, 13 U.S. Olympic Festivals, six ISF World Championships and the 1996 Olympic Games where he was the information manager. A 1973 graduate of Indiana University, Plummer has written widely about the sport for almost five decades. He authored the book; “The Game America Plays: Celebrating 75 years of the Amateur Softball Association,” in 2008 and co-authored another book in 2012 and co-authored another one in 2013, which won the Oklahoma Sports Historian Award in 2014. He has also contributed to 11 other books about softball. Besides the National Softball Hall of Fame, Plummer is a member of four other ASA Halls of Fame: New York State, Tidewater, Oklahoma and Indiana. He writes for the website: and for Fast Pitch Magazine, an online publication. Plummer, a native of Syracuse, NY, passed away on April 9, 2016.