Straitjacket Softball was conceived as part of the project Psychogeographic Aesthletics for the 2007 Conflux Festival. Few people know that softball was invented as a safe version of baseball for psychiatric patients in the 19th century. In the original game of “softball”, bases were not used; instead, some of the more unstable patients were kept in their straightjackets and used as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base*. For the Conflux Festival, two teams of residents from Williamsburg, Brooklyn squared off to play each other: the United Sugar Refiners Health and Temperance Society, the sports club of the 19th century sugar conglomerate who owned most of North Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century, and the Northside Fitness Center, a contemporary art collective who donned their ironic sports t shirts for actual competitive play.
The game was interesting, more exciting than softball, for sure, but a bit challenging to control, which as part of the original objective was fine. But interesting rule challenges popped up throughout the contest- could a straightjacketed base catch a ball? No. Could a straightjacketed player fall to the ground? Yes. Could fielders physically prevent runners from grabbing the straightjacketed player? Hard to say. This rule, which obviously would not be allowed in baseball or softball, made the game very fun, more physical and way more challenging for the batting team. Regardless of the eventual version of straitjacket softball, which most likely will never be realized, its safe to say that this event proved there are many improvements one could make to softball or baseball.
*This is not true