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 https://www.teamusa.org/usa-softball/media/balls-and-strikes-online-magazine.