Softball was big at Oak Grove, the one-room country school 2 miles northwest of Seneca in the middle of Crawford County, Wisconsin. I started first grade on September 6, 1948. Two 8th grade boys chose sides. Who got to make the first selection was determined by the bat toss. One boy tossed the bat vertically to the other boy. The bat was caught with one hand by the second boy. Hand over hand on the bat until the boy whose hand was at the top end of the bat got first choice.
The “better” athletes and usually older boys and girls got picked first down to about third grade. One team took the field, the other team batting. No umpire. “Safe” or “out” calls might be argued, but settled quickly.
The wood shed was the backstop. The playing play was not level, rather tilted. Ran down hill to first base and uphill from second to third. If you overran first base, you went over the bank and tumbled into the gravel road going down into Kettle Hollow.
If some kids had not arrived at school, with only seven or eight kids available, we played workup. Two or three batters kept batting until an out was made. That person moved out to play left field. Every player moved up one space. Left field to center field, center field to right field, right fielder to third base, pitcher became the new hitter, etc.
What about only 4 or 5 players? Well, that’s called 500. A batter at home plate tosses the softball into the air and hits the ball to fielders who try to catch it. A caught fly ball is worth 100 points, a one-bouncer is 75 points, a 2 bounce ball is worth 50 points, and anything else is a grounder with a value of 25 points. Whoever gets to 500 points is now the batter.
We played softball in the rain, with snow on the ground, and when the field was muddy. If conditions were really bad, we played Annie Over. Half the school kids on one side of the school, the other half on the opposite side.
Someone threw the ball over the school roof, caught on the other side, a designated person hiding the ball behind his/her back, someone yells “Annie Over”. Kids run around the school to the opposite side, some going one way, some the other. The person with the ball tries to tag a member of the opposite team. If successful, they become part of your team. Play continues until all the kids are on one team.