"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Was Watching

Speaking of nyerds, one of the nyerdest things to do is keep score at a baseball game (and if you are doing it at home, which I’ve tried on a few occasions, you are flat-out phreak). I never had the patience to do it when I was a kid. I also didn’t have anyone teach me either, and I think this is the sort of thing that is handed down from generation-to-generation. But about six or seven years ago, I started teaching myself how to do it. At first, I’d only last a few innings, but soon enough, I caught the bug. Actually, I think it appealed to my artistic nature, first and foremost. The idea of having a personalized record, complete with random notes, and little drawings, was appealing. Plus, it gave me a way to burn some nervous energy, doodling around, while I was at the game. I think I know the “correct” symbols to use now, but I still use half of my own notations, cause it’s just more fun that way.

Anyhow, I’ve come to appreciate people who keep score. Remember the story in the Times a few weeks ago about the woman who has been scoring Yankee games since the early 70s? Jay Jaffe has scorecards from when he was a kid, and I know Cliff is an expert scorekeeper. (Red Barber gives a lesson on how to keep score in his book “The Broadcasters” I believe.) A few days ago, Bob Ryan wrote a fun piece in the Boston Globe detailing his obsession with keeping score:

Why do I do this? If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand. Anyway, it’s a good way to meet people. People will see me with my book in a minor league park and say, “Are you a scout, or somethin’?” And I say, “No, I’m just a baseball fan who likes to keep score.”

It’d be great to run a series of people’s scorecards, don’t you think? If anyone has any good ones, make a j-peg of them and send it along to us. At least we could see what everyone’s penmanship is like.

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1 NetShrine   ~  Jun 10, 2005 5:54 am

1.  You might like reading this one:
then again, it is a painful story........

2 Murray   ~  Jun 10, 2005 6:44 am

2.  Oy, do I have scorecards. Hundreds of them.

The reason I learned to keep score was to track my Strat-o-Matic games, starting in junior high. It's rare that I don't keep score at a game I attend. In fact, my big concession to being a social animal at the ballpark is when I promise not to score pitch-by-pitch. On those occasions where I don't keep score, however, I feel completely lost. Scoring makes me focus on the game.

3 murphy   ~  Jun 10, 2005 7:12 am

3.  one of the things i find most interesting is the different ways people score games. i have many baseball-intelligent friends and amongst them i have seen no less than three different scoring systems by which their users swear.

one of these is the system that one of our humble hosts at this very site uses. so without putting you on the spot TOO much, cliff: how bout next off day you scan one of your scorecards and put it up here for us to puruse/debate.

4 Repoz   ~  Jun 10, 2005 7:38 am

4.  I still have my scribbled Yankee scorecards from the M & M boys '61 season...and I ain't giving them up!

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 10, 2005 7:58 am

5.  Here's my card from opening day:


It's a bit hard to read - pencil doesn't scan that well, but if you download the image (right click, save image as . . .), you can get a better look at it, particularly if you have a good photo viewer with a zoom.

All doodles by Becky.

6 Jen   ~  Jun 10, 2005 8:01 am

6.  It took me a while to appreciate that there are vastly different ways that people keep score. One day I invited my brother to a game. I bought a program with intentions of keeping score. But he asked if he could keep score instead. I told him sure, as long as I could keep the scorecard in the end since it was Yogi Berra day and I wanted something to remember it by (since Yogi is my hero and all). He agreed. Well, it turned out to be Coney's perfect game. When we got home I took a look at the card and noticed that he marked the diamonds upside down, home plate at 12 o'clock, second at 6 o'clock, etc. So on paper it looked like they were filming Pride of the Yankees again and everyone was running around the bases counter-clockwise. His contention is that you keep score like your point of view is from the field, not the batter's box. I have no clue how he came up with that. I was sure that we both learned to keep score from our dad.

Well, I was kinda pissed off about it at the time. Here I had this memento of one of the greatest days of my life and he mucked it up by filling out the scorecard backwards. (yeah, I know I was being petty.)

It wasn't until the past couple of years that I found out that there are ton of different ways to keep score and there is no right or wrong. Although I still think my brother is a little screwy.

7 Jen   ~  Jun 10, 2005 8:04 am

7.  Cliff loves Andy Phillips. Cute.

8 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 10, 2005 8:33 am

8.  Murray, I forgot to mention that. What I discovered for myself after awhile was that keeping score at the game actually kept me focused on what was happening. I suppose it's easier to follow along these days with the information the scoreboard provides, but just from a play-by-play viewpoint, it helps keep me into what is happening. I even found a scorecard where I can track pitches, but it's not detailed enough for me to go more than 3 balls, 2 strikes, and I don't have small enough handwriting to record what order the pitch sequence is.

9 Fuller R   ~  Jun 10, 2005 9:05 am

9.  One of my favorite possessions is the scorecard from 1977 Game 6, kept by my two older bros. (I was 11 at the time and didn't know how to do it yet.) I may have it framed some day.

I am a youth league coach, and I keep the book for my team and love doing it. When we are the home team, I am the official scorer for the game, which is cool. I could get someone else to do it, but I really love it.

At pro games, I do it for a few innings, but rarely for the entire game.

I agree with the sentiment "if you have to ask why I do it, you wouldn't understand".

10 rbj   ~  Jun 10, 2005 9:25 am

10.  I used to do it, when I first started going to games (major & minor leagues). I wound up throwing them out a few years ago during my one of my umpteenth million moves (it's amazing the value you place on things at the prospect of lugging them up yet another 3 flights.) Rarely did I complete them, usually my attention got drawn to what was going to happen next and before you knew it, two innings had gone by without any scribbling.
And I always used my own scoring method.

11 Knuckles   ~  Jun 10, 2005 10:22 am

11.  I like the Mantei manatee.

His new nickname is Sea Cow.

12 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 10, 2005 10:24 am

12.  Yup, that's what I've been calling him all year.

13 jayd   ~  Jun 10, 2005 10:53 am

13.  Well, I predicted big things by June 9th; most of which happened. But who wooda thunk we'd go 2 and 7 but only lose 2 games in the standings? Imagine where we'd be with a 7 and 2 record...Cliff, would you have traded Tom Gordon for polanCANO and is Matsui injured or am I missing something?

14 Murray   ~  Jun 10, 2005 10:57 am

14.  Alex, I find that getting the information off the scoreboards isn't good enough to keep me involved, and in some cases, you aren't always going to be able to see the scoreboard that provides running counts of pitches or out-of-town scores. So I like to have that written transcript handy.

By the way, there's this:


The only thing I'm sure of is that it's not Matsui. He hasn't been on fire since April.

15 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 10, 2005 11:09 am

15.  Hey Cliff, just curious, is that a walrus Becky drew, over by Mantei and Halama? That's a nice bit of dada.

I used to keep score diligently as a kid, but at some point I began listening to the radio while at the park and realized there was no reason for me to keep score. I've since grown up and never listen to the radio at the park (unless something freakish happens and I can't figure it out, like say, someone has too much pinetar on their bat). But I don't keep score anymore because somehow I find it distracting rather than focusing.

16 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 10, 2005 11:17 am

16.  JayD, I don't think Matsui is injured, he's just fouled up. That his performance isn't terribly far from 2003 is what concerns me most. I'm beginning to wonder if he's worth resigning, but then there aren't many other options out there this winter.

I would not have traded Gordon for Polanco, no, because that would only increase the rate at which Sturtze loses his effectiveness due to overuse. The Yankees need to add to TanGorMo, not take away from it. Also, Cano may not be ready to contribute to a Championship club yet (his OBP is Enrique-like right now), but now that he's here, showing potential and adjusting to the bigs, I don't think its worth the long-shot that the Yanks can salvage this season to hinder his progress, which could benefit this team for the remainder of the decade and beyond. What the Yanks need most is an outfielder, not a second baseman. If Cano can learn to take a walk, he'll be a home grown Polanco for a fraction of the price and seven years younger (though that won't happen this year).

That said, picking up Polanco and playing him at third to do the Rodriguez-Jeter, SS/CF shift and bench Womack would have been worth a shot. Not that it would ever have happened.

17 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jun 10, 2005 11:21 am

17.  WFB, as per Knuckles' comment, it's Matt Manatee.

And to add my take, keeping score keeps me in the game. Even keeping score I occassionally miss an at-bat ("wait, how did he get on first?" "hold on, the scoreboard says two outs, but I only have one!"), I can't imagine how lost I'd be without it. Also, I like to have the souvenier. I have a completed scorecard from all but a handfull of games that I've attended. Someday soon I should assemble them in a binder or something, so I can flip through them easily.

18 Murray   ~  Jun 10, 2005 12:07 pm

18.  Just about every scorecard I've ever kept at the stadium has a note indicating "4/C/D train wins!" I should go back through them to see who my all-time Great Train Race leader is.

In another "Eureka" moment, it dawned on me last season that I should write down who I went to each game with at the top of my scorecard. It's an even more personal touch.

19 Knuckles   ~  Jun 10, 2005 1:26 pm

19.  Murray- great idea.
I actually have no interest in scorekeeping but I might have to start buying a scorecard each game and in the lineup spots write who I'm with and where we sit, and maybe keep a beercard. (Actually this would be pretty pointless in the bleachers- we'd have to start scoring on the train or the bowling alley.)

Cliff- duly noted, I will give you full credit next time I call him Sea Cow in front of other people.

20 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 10, 2005 5:46 pm

20.  Cliff, I can't believe you're talking about not resigning Matsui. The man's still on a pace to drive in 100 runs for the third straight year and I trust him in a big spot in the postseason. Plus, I like his cool-cucumber style and he seems the right fit for the ballclub. I'd be happy to see him stick around for a long time. Why are you souring on him?

21 brockdc   ~  Jun 10, 2005 9:03 pm

21.  The thing with Hideki is that he doesn't do anything extraordinarily well. He's a solid hitter with pretty good power who can put the ball in play. On the other hand, he's a double play machine and is a mediocre outfielder. Also, his supposedly flawless swing is one that is prone to mechanical flaws and, thus, extended slumps. I like him, too - but not for 35 mil over four years (which MIGHT be his asking price).

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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