(For a great local history by Dennis Stern, click here.)
In 1964, Charley Fairbanks, an engineer with Mountain Bell Telephone in Colorado, put a beeping mechanism in a large soft-ball, giving the visually impaired their first chance to play America's most popular sport, baseball. Although Fairbanks is credited with designing the first "beepball" it took a group of Minnesotans to put together the firs Beep Baseball team.
According to the NBBA, a number of things fell into place in order to make Beep Baseball a reality. "In the spring of 1975, a very important event happened when the Minnesota Telephone Pioneers presented John Ross, Director of the Braille Sports Foundation, with a newly designed beep ball. The new beep ball was a 16 inch ball with an improved sound module designed to withstand the impact of being hit solidly. Ross took the ball and along with some of his other blind friends, began experimenting with new rule adaptations to make the game more like regular baseball. Word of the experimental game spread across the Mississippi River to a group of blind athletes in St. Paul. Dennis Huberty, organizer of the St. Pautites, contacted Ross and competitive beep baseball was born. The two teams engaged in weekend games throughout that summer. By the end of that summer, Ross and Huberty sat down and wrote a new set of guidelines that became known as the 'Minnesota Rules.' The main thrust of those original rules was the creation of a modified version of baseball that would allow blind people to play with honor and dignity."
Beep Baseball was born. Ross and Hubert worked on developing better rules and the Braille Sport Foundation (now in St Louis Park, Minnesota) publicized the game around the country. Players in San Francisco and Phoenix took up the sport and games were scheduled for the fall.
The Braille Sport Foundation, through their "Feeling Sports" publication, set up a meeting in Chicago in March of 1976 for anyone interested in developing the sport. A "dirty dozen" got started and put together goals and timelines and started the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA). They then planned the first NBBA World Series for later that fall.
That championship series took place at Dunning field in St. Paul, (the same field that Billy Peterson coached Hall of Fame members Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield). In front of 1,500 vocal fans, the Saint Paul Gorillas defeated the Phoenix Thunderbirds by a score of 36 to 27. Beep Baseball had arrived, and the NBBA became the legitimate authority for the game.
Some other teams across the country:
Coventry South Sharks
Houston Youth Beep Baseball
Kansas All Stars
Long Island Bombers