Thursday, February 12, 2009

Backward K's and the 6-4-3 double play

One of the things I've always remember from the games I attended as a kid was keeping score. I loved doing it, and did at every game I could. Back then you could buy the scoresheet separately from the program, for about $.50, I think. Now you have to buy the program for $10 to get a scoresheet, unless you bring your own. I don't know of any park that still offers just the scoresheet, but they missing out on a great opportunity:

For non-scorers, the obvious question to ask is "why bother"? The official account is placed on record and all of the details and statistics are published on-line for future reference, so is it really worth the effort to keep score yourself? As someone who has scored games as a fan for nine years and counting, I know how it can increase your enjoyment of a game whilst improving your understanding of the events that take place on the field.

Learning how to keep score helped me learn a lot more about the game. Sure I loved the action, but baseball is made for keeping score. There are enough pauses between pitches and plays that you have time to record the action, and is actually a great way to fill those pauses. A lot of people complain about the length of games. Next time you're watching one, at home or at the stadium, try keeping score. I'll bet you don't even notice the time. The game will fly by, and you'll enjoy it much more than you could ever imagine.

Having a clearer understanding of the rules is worthwhile in itself, but scoring can also provide you with an insight into the tactical decisions that are a fundamental part of the game. This is particularly beneficial for a non-playing British newcomer to the sport. Consider the following familiar scenario:

The road-team‟s manager makes a pitching change and the home-team‟s manager counters by bringing in a pinch-hitter. The hitter gets a walk and jogs to first base and then the next thing you know, one of his team mates is stealing second base! Once that half of the inning is over, the guy who stole second is standing in centre field, the person who was previously in centre field is now in left field and the person who was previously in left field is sat on the bench!
This article is from the website, Baseball GB, a hub for the best British baseball writing. I fully agree. They are doing great things in advancing the game in the UK, and do more than just talk about. They provide several features, such as blogs and instructional articles to teach people more about the game.

They don't want people to just watch games, they want them to experience them. Keeping score is a great way to do this:

Your memories preserved

The above are all valid reasons for keeping score, yet they mainly focus on the process rather than the outcome. For some people, the best part about keeping score is the completed scorecard that you produce. It would be natural to think that the scorecard is of only minor interest, particularly for MLB games. All of the information you record can be accessed on-line via many different websites, accompanied by a vast amount of additional data about the game in question. If it is all there to refer to anyway, doesn't your unofficial version become a bit redundant?

The answer is an emphatic „no‟. Precisely because of the factors mentioned above, the scorecard is your record of the contest. As such, referring back to it doesn‟t only allow you to recall the action on the field, it also conjures up your personal memories of watching the game. In this sense, a completed scorecard is similar to a photograph. When you look at a photograph taken while on holiday several years ago, you don‟t just see what is in the picture.

You are immediately taken back to the moment when the shutter clicked down. What you did before and after the photo was taken. The other things you saw at the time. The conversations you had with your friends/family. The sounds and smells, feelings and emotions; they all come flooding back. Just like a photograph, a fan‟ scorecard can be a portal back to a moment in time.
I couldn't agree more with that. Unfortunately, over the years, I got away from scorekeeping. Mostly due to the fact that I was old enough to start enjoying the more adult beverages offered, or spent too much time dissecting the game with family and friends. Not that that's a bad thing either, but I haven't kept score in years.

It is a different way of seeing the game, and adds something to it. The first game I ever attended was a doubleheader between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers in 1972, the year the Tigers won the division. I was too young to keep score that day, but I wish I could have.

Along side Hall of Famer Al Kaline would have been the names of Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Amos Oits, John Mayberry, Paul Schaal and Richie Scheinblum. That would be a scorecard for the ages, at least for me.

I think next time I go to a game, I'm going to give it a try again.

I didn't realize until after I had written this that Lar from wezenball had done a similar post. I've already written, and we we have some different readership, so I'm going to post it anyhow. If this was of interest to you, check out the other one also.


tHeMARksMiTh said...

I tried to explain baseball to my ex-girlfriend while we were dating. She really didn't get it or enjoy it until I taught her how to keep score.

I love doing it as well.

Ron Rollins said...

It was the first truly interactive anything.

It really helps people to understand the game better.

Matt Smith said...

Hi Ron. Thanks a lot for highlighting my article and for your kind words about our website.

I'm glad you enjoy keeping score as much as we do. Feel free to spread the message by printing out some copies of my article and handing them out to bemused passers-by in Bournemouth!

Ron Rollins said...


You're welcome. You guys are doing some good stuff.

I'll be at Upper Heyford in two weeks for the umpires clinic. Unfortuantely, I'll miss the first day of spring training as I've been asked to help coach the local team here in Bournemouth.

If any of you guys are going to be at the clinic, let me know.