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The Softball Hall of Fame and Museum hosts memorabilia commemorating more than 120 years of the game

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With balls and strikes, home runs and pop fouls, the sights and sounds of athletes in competition mix with the history of one of America's most popular sports at the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum, 2801 N.E. 50th.

Invented more than 120 years ago in Chicago, the sport was called kitten ball, mush ball, pumpkin ball and diamond ball before finally being christened as softball in 1926. According to its governing body, the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), it is now the most popular team-participant sport in the United States.

With uniforms and equipment, the museum honors the origins and evolution of the sport that the ASA says is played by more than 40 million athletes annually. From Sunday softball heroes to Olympic gold medalists, the collection includes memorabilia from generations of players at all levels, whether big-time or beer-league. More than 300 softball stars, coaches, commissioners and umpires have been enshrined in the hall.

A focal point is a section honoring USA Softball's Olympic successes. Sporting the country's red, white and blue, many great players have represented the country and captured the biggest prize at three Olympics. The exhibit includes uniforms, photographs, equipment and keepsakes.

The museum was established in 1957 in Newark, N.J. When the ASA moved to Oklahoma City in 1966, the museum soon followed, and the facility that houses it opened in 1973.

Adjacent fields comprise Oklahoma City's Hall of Fame complex, which the ASA regards as "the finest softball facility in the nation" and is home to a host of major softball events, including the NCAA Women's College World Series. Inside the museum, a display honors the student athletes who have been named as their sport's college player of the year.

The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. From April to October, it is also open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. com.

Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 12 and younger. For more information, visit www.asasoftball.com.

Price writes online at www.travelblur.com.

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