Keeping Score

I recently read Wait ‘Til Next Year, a memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin about her life growing up as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. An interesting part of her childhood was that her father taught her how to keep score during baseball games, so that she could listen to the day games, keep score, and then relate to him in great detail how the game went when he got home from work in the evening. The act of reducing a game to marks on a score sheet, and then elaborating from those marks the details and stories of the game helped her develop the ability to create a narrative.

This was the first book of hers that I’ve read, and let me tell you, she can create a narrative. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

Anyway, as an inveterate score-keeper myself, I enjoyed her account. When I go to a game, I almost always keep score. It keeps me in the game—despite all of the loud, between-inning distractions that are part of attending a professional baseball game these days—and helps me remember what’s gone on earlier with each particular batter.

Like Doris Kearns Goodwin, I learned from my father how to keep score. Unlike her, though, I don’t hang onto my scorecards after the game. She has notebooks full of old games that she kept track of. Me, I generally toss my scorecard in the first trash can I see once the game’s over. It’s great during the game, but I don’t have much use for it after that.

Another reason I don’t keep my scorecards is that I’ve always been somewhat deficient in the penmanship department, and my scorecards end up looking pretty sloppy:

Scorecard.jpg

I can tell what happened, but perhaps nobody else can. This was from a game in May against the Cubs. It was a rare Cardinals game for me this year, because, as you can see, the Cardinals actually scored some runs—five of them, as you can see (if you can decipher my scorekeeping … and they shoulda had more in the 8th). In most of the games I’ve been to this year, the offense has been pretty sparse.

‘The Cardinal Way’

Which brings us to “the Cardinal Way.” If you buy a scorecard at Busch Stadium these days, a whole page of the double-fold scorecard is devoted to instructing us how to keep score, supposedly the way the Cardinals do it.

CardinalsWay.jpg

In short, it’s radically different from the way I keep score, and from the way everybody I know keeps score. In the Cardinal Way, hits are signified by those little cross-like things—a single has one crosshatches, a double has two, etc. In the ‘standard’ way, you write 1B, 2B, etc., in the middle of the box, and then you can see how far the runner advanced in the inning by how much of the diamond is there; if he makes it around to score, there’s a full diamond inside the square for that at-bat. I think it’s a lot easier to see, at a glance, what’s happening using my way rather than the ‘Cardinal way.’

OK, so with my way, you can’t tell what direction the hit went to; in the Cardinal Way, that is signified by which way the top of the little cross points. You can also tell that Brock stole a base while Musial was batting, whereas with my method, you can’t tell when a stolen base occurred. Honestly, though, that’s information I can live without.

Neither method, though, helps in a busy game when there are lots of substitutions. In those games, the left side of the scorecard, where all the names are, gets completely jumbled, and it’s almost impossible to follow how the game went. The solution would be to have a scorecard that’s twice the size, so there’s room to note all of the changes and when they occurred, but I guess that’s just not practical.

Bottom line, it seems to me the Cardinal Way is a new trick this old dog isn’t going to learn.

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