Sunday, August 17, 2008

Keeping score

I'm a practitioner of something of a lost art -- I keep score when I attend professional baseball games.

This is (slightly) serious stuff to me. I write down the lineups completely, and have all sorts of scribbles that would allow me, and only me, to reconstruct how the game went years later. I find it helps me pay attention to games, and allows me to see how a particular batter is doing. It's good to know if a pitcher has been struggling by checking out walks and such, or if a batter is on a particular hot streak. I even circle inning numbers in which a team stranded runners in scoring position, a trick I learned from Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.

I even bring my own scorebook to the game, at least when I'm not going in a group and feel a need to treat the game like a social event. (There are many ways of enjoying a baseball game.)

The scorebook is handy, because the ones usually sold at games aren't exactly useful. The pages around the actual scoring area usually are filled with ads, meaning that the space devoted to the boxes for actual at-bats is small and getting smaller. Ever try to cram writing that signifies a double to right field with the batter thrown out stretching, right fielder to second baseman to third baseman, in a space about the size of a quarter of a postage stamp? Doesn't work.

But even that scorebook doesn't lead to a trial-free night. As I noticed at the Buffalo Bisons' game the other night, teams don't make it too easy to keep score these days.

Before a game, the public address announcer rattled off the lineups in short order. I had time to write down the number and position, period. The text was not posted on the message board, so that wasn't any help. I had to look at the scoreboard when each batter came up to write down the name. Forget, and you are sunk for two or three innings.

As for pitching changes, the names usually are announced between commercials, but that's it. You never see a name on the scoreboard. And some scoring decisions, like passed ball/wild pitch, require some guessing.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't that big of a deal even in terms of enjoying a game. But when I see someone keeping score at a game, I know he or she is someone who really likes and knows baseball, a kindred spirit. I also know he or she is continuing a tradition that dates back decades. I hate to see that sort of tradition slip away.

1 comment:

Jam 'n Jazzz said...

I never was able to get into keeping score (I did like sitting next to my friend who would however). I've tried keeping score over the years and I find that, at least for me, I concentrate on scoring to the point of making the game an exercise in coding. I just lose the experience of the ballgame when I keep score. I do miss all the info it provides, however, so in case I need to check a quick stat what section can I find you in.