Fire Station #19, Birthplace of Softball
Softball, or Kittenball as it was first known, was developed as an indoor sport by Lewis Rober of Fire Station #19 as a way for the firemen to keep in shape during the cold months. In the summer of 1895 the first outdoor Kittenball game was played in the adjacent vacant lot near Fire Station #19. We looked at the 1898 map and figure the game was played on lot 14 of block 14 (see above). It is also located on the upper left hand corner of plate 33 of the 1898 map.
The first outdoor game of Kittenball was played between the Fire Station #19 Engine Company team, captained by Sandy Hamilton and the Truck team, captained by Lieutenant Thielen approximately where the parking lot north of Station #19 is located today. Rober laid out bases with a pitching distance of 35 feet. The ball was a small sized medicine ball and the bat was about 2 inches in diameter. There was a Kittenball league organized by 1900 in Minneapolis and it was embraced by the St. Paul and Minneapolis park boards by 1916. It was later referred to as Diamondball until 1926 when Softball was first used to describe the game.
Fire Station #19, located at 2001 University Ave. SE, now just south of TCF Stadium, was designated as a building of local historical significance in 1982.