1920s Softball Team
From a distance, it looks and sounds like a regular baseball game: the crack of the bat, the cheering from the bench, the sliding into home plate. But a closer look at the field shows something is very different. They’re playing on a rough grass field, no one is using a batting helmet, fielding glove, or catcher’s mask.
From the 1920s through the 1940s, Reed Brothers had their own company softball team that played on the fields at the Rockville Fairgrounds where Richard Montgomery High School now stands. In 1939, the Rockville Fire Department and Reed Brothers Dodge, two top-ranking teams, inaugurated the Montgomery Softball Association championship series at the newly renovated Welsh Field in Rockville. Situated in the heart of Rockville’s business district, the field was renovated and illuminated in 1939.
Participating teams at the time included Pepco, Takoma Phil-Gas Company, Marine Barracks, Rockmont Motor Company, St Mary’s Boys’ Club, Lawyers and Businessmen, among others.
Note the player with the five-finger glove in the photo above. Out of all of these photos, this is the only glove that can be seen on a player. The use of gloves wasn’t original to the first years of the game; needing a padded glove was viewed as pretty wimpy. (According to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, one of the first players to wear a glove tried – and failed – to find one that would be invisible to fans.) By the 1880s gloves were accepted equipment, however, and soon inventors and manufacturers were coming up with new and improved gloves (more padding, deeper webbing…)
From The Montgomery County Sentinel, May 12, 1938:
The softball games are played primarily to give the older gentry a chance to get some real exercise and to furnish fun and excitement for those of us about to round the forties. The order of the day is “no arguing with the umpires and as little running as possible — unless it is certain it will be a close play”.
Below, a gold trophy is awarded by John Haley to Reed Brothers Dodge, the 1941 champion softball team of the Rockville league. The trophy, 18 inches tall is a bowl mounted on a pedestal surmounted by a softball player in batting position. The presentation was an annual affair and only one awarded.