Baseball Scorecard - the urge to keep score is as old as the game of baseball itself.
Here’s the hook. You can recall the whole game inning by inning, batter by batter, just looking at the scorecard. It’s exhilarating. Like some kind of magic, that single piece of paper preserves the game with no significant loss of detail.
For traditional baseball fans everywhere, a scorecard is a treasure! Today, we celebrate one of the most fascinating traditions in sports – the baseball scorecard.
Scorekeeping has been around for about 150 years. In fact, the first scorecard in Baseball history was auctioned at Swann Galleries in New York in 2011, for about $4,600.
Official scorers are hired to keep an official record of each game but many baseball fans keep score as well, for their own pleasure.
Within the history of the baseball scorecard are some of baseball’s greatest moments.
Historic scorecards includes Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Cal Ripken’s record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game and Babe Ruth’s famous “called” home run.
From the first scorecard introduced in 1845, to the scoring technique designed by L.L.Bean; from presidential scoring habits to batting titles decided by official scorers, to Phil Rizzuto’s inspired scoring symbol “WW,” (“Wasn’t Watching”), no other sport has anything that approximates the scorecard.
Globally credited as the father of baseball scorekeeping, Henry Chadwick, invented his own personal scoring card in the 1860s. Chadwick’s basic scorecard and annotation have evolved significantly since their emergence but they remain the standard for most of what has followed.
His scoring card was nine batters deep and nine innings wide, similar to what we use today. It was annotated with letters for what the batter did and numbers for which fielders handled the ball.
Evolution of the Baseball Scorecard
Even though that method evolved over time, one annotation remains the same as it was hundreds of years ago: A “K” in the scorebook means the batter struck out. Chadwick originated the “K” because he used the last letter of an out – in this case, “struck” – as his way of identifying it in the scorecard.
In the early 1890s, entrepreneur Harry Stevens, the ‘Hot Dog’ inventor, took over. The food concessionaire from Derby England arrived the States and became obsessed with Baseball. He changed the way fans watched live baseball games by designing the scorecard (also called a roster card), which identified each player by numbers on a grid.
These scorecards made use of a fairly simple but interactive numerical system as the means by which fans could identify individual players. Because the traditional method has been in use for a long time, it has the highest variations in syntax and symbols.
In the traditional method, each cell in the main area of the scoresheet represents the “lifetime” of an offensive player, from at-bat to baserunner, to being put out or scoring a run.
In 1980, there was need for a method of keeping score that could be easily input to a computer in other to reach more people. Project Scoresheet, a volunteer organisation, rose to meet this need
Since no baseball diamonds or other symbols are found on a computer keyboard, the language was limited to letters, numbers, and punctuation.
Project Scoresheet addressed a lack of precision in the traditional system of scorekeeping, and introduced new features to the scorecard.
Some major changes were made to the traditional scorecard:
The innings of play are no longer recorded in a one-per-column fashion, all boxes are used sequentially and new innings are indicated with a heavy horizontal line instead. This saves space on the card as no boxes are left blank; reducing the chances of a game requiring a second set of scorecards.
Another major change is the offensive and defensive in/out system, which allows the scorekeeper to specify when players enter and leave the game. This is vital for crediting events to the proper players.
Each “event box” on a Project Scoresheet scorecard is broken down into three sections: ‘Before The Play,’ ‘During The Play,’ and ‘After The Play.’ All events are inserted into one of these three slots.
For example, a stolen base happens “before the play” because it occurs before the batter’s at-bat is over. A hit is considered “during the play” because it ends the batter’s plate appearance, and baserunner movement subsequent to the batter’s activity is considered “after the play”.
But while the Project Scoresheet language remains the standard for storing play-by-play game data in computers, it has its own limitations. The scorecards it produces are hard to read because of the backtracking required to reconstruct a mid-inning play.
Then came the Reisner Scorecard; a cross between a traditional scorecard and Project Scoresheet.
It has a diamond representing the field, just as the traditional scorecard, and a single line for recording action during and after the play just like the Project Scoresheet. In each event box, the diamond is used to show which bases are occupied by which players at the start of an at-bat. “Before the play” events are also marked on the diamond.
The digital age hasn’t left scorekeeping behind at all. There are now apps for keeping score but the downside to this is battery life.
Now you’ve got everything you pretty much need on a scoreboard. In spite of the change in appearance over time, the use of scorecards remains practically the same and that includes:
- Recording general game information such as time, date, location and teams;
- Listing the batting lineup with player positions, uniform numbers and the pitchers in the game;
- Recording the play-by-play action;
- Tallying each player’s total at-bats, hits, runs, etc. at the end of the game.
For those who keep score the traditional way or have kept score the traditional way, a scorecard is an elixir. For newbies, it will be of historical interest. For baseball fans everywhere, it is a delight.