When I told my friend Josh that I liked to keep score at baseball games, he quickly replied, “Do you listen to the radio broadcast on your headphones, too?” No, but that’s not a bad idea.
Rarely do I see others keeping score at games these days. If I do, they’re usually at least 20 years older than me. Scorekeeping is dying in ballparks around the country and in its place are excessive drinking and eating. Why would a ballclub push a $1 scorecard on you when they can more easily sell $8 beers and $4 hot dogs? For the record: you can easily enjoy one of each.
When I keep score at a baseball game, I feel more in tune with what’s happening. I’m not relying on the whims of the electronic scoreboard to know what’s happening. Although it can be a pain carrying a pencil and scorecard around, it’s well worth the effort after I’ve recorded that game in my scorebook. Somewhere among my old belongings at my parents’ house, there is a scorecard from game 7 of the 1991 World Series. It’s about the best keepsake you can have from a memorable game. Also, on my wall in my living room in a frame is the scorecard I kept from the Twins’ one-game playoff against the Tigers to settle the AL Central in 2009 – otherwise known as Game 163.
Everyone keeps score in a different way. The most common is to draw a line from home to each base to show the batter’s progress in an inning. I keep score the way the 2005 Pittsburgh Pirates scorecard suggested. It was at my first game at PNC Park that, on a whim, I decided to keep score. I hadn’t done it since I was a kid. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Each corner of the batter’s box in the scorecard represents a base. The lower-right corner is first, upper right is second, upper left is third and lower left is home. In each corner, something must be marked to show how that batter got to that base or was thrown out at that base. If the batter doesn’t get to any base, the outcome can be written in the middle of the box. A single is represented by a single line, a double is two and so on.
Standing near the left-field foul pole at a recent Twins game, I was surrounded by fellow fans who, like me, did not have a seat. It was a standing-room-only crowd and we couldn’t see the main scoreboard from our viewpoint. As the one guy who was keeping score, I became a bit of the area statistician.
“Who’s up next inning?”
“How many strikeouts does Liriano have now?”
“Has Span gotten a fly ball yet?”
I had all the answers right in front of me. The Twins pitchers struck out 15 batters in that game. Sure, I can go to baseball-reference.com and look up the box score, but my scorebook is exactly that … mine. It’s my personal connection to the game. The box score won’t have numerous exclamation points after the opposing team flied out to center field because the box score just says Konerko flied out to center while I’ll remember it as Denard Span robbing Paul Konerko of a home run.
I’ve even gone so far as to keep score of important games on TV. There are a number of playoff and World Series games in my scorebook. It’s something to keep me occupied while sitting on the couch.
Unfortunately, a good scorecard is getting more and more difficult to come by at parks. Many times a program has to be bought where the scorecard can be found inside. Sadly, there’s usually little room to write and sometimes there’s not even a spot to record the pitchers’ statistics. Scorecards are so cheap, I think teams (minor leagues and majors) should have a scorecard day where every fan is given a scorecard and pencil (complete with team name and local sponsor) as they walk in the park. Instructions could be given on how to keep score on the card as well as the scoreboard throughout the game.
Historian Doris Goodwin Kearns has talked about how she used to keep score of the Brooklyn Dodgers games during the day and when her father came home from work, she would give him a play-by-play based on her scorecard. With the internet and sports television networks, the scorecard is dying. The same was said of listening to music on records a few years back and vinyl has made a comeback recently. Why not the scorecard?