Last week we covered the difference between the passionate and casual fan; this week, we’re going to delve into one of the traditions that cements your status as a die-hard, passionate baseball fan: Keeping score.
We’ve all seen them at the park; they usually have a tiny handheld radio, their team gear is faded, as if it’s been sitting in the sun since the year 2000. They show up well before first pitch, are usually alone, or with one other person, also keeping score, and they write in hieroglyphics.
Baseball is a cryptic game. WAR. WHIP. FWIP. LOB. OBP, backwards K. Nobody outside of an archivist at baseballreference.com can tell you what every anagram stands for in baseball, but keeping score does have a few hidden gems that will make your viewing experience much more enjoyable. Knowledge is power!! (can we get Gonzo some knowledge, STAT!)
Before we get into the details, let’s make one thing clear about score keeping. You can do it from home, in an opposing stadium, really anywhere the game can normally be enjoyed. There is a catch; you need to be ready to go before 1st pitch, and be prepared to stay until the final out. No leaving early. No showing up in the 2nd inning. Keeping score without the 1st or 9th inning is the equivalent of eating nothing but lunch for one day; sure, you ingested some sustenance, but you’re left feeling lacking, like something’s missing.
First up is the book. A quick Amazon search yields hundreds of results, anywhere from $5.50 and up. Affordable for anyone, even college students and their tight budgets!
Next, you’ll need a pencil, and a seat at the game. Now, there are only a bazillion different ways to purchase tickets, online or otherwise; I’ll leave which method you use up to you. I trust you. You got this!
We mentioned earlier that it’s somewhat of a solitary ritual; this doesn’t mean you cannot bring a friend, but keep in mind that conversations revolving around anything but the speed of that last fastball from Clayton will have to wait. You’ll want to fill in all the players active for the game for each squad; position players, as well as pitchers. The line-ups are announced at least an hour before first pitch, so you’ll have plenty of time to do this before the game starts. Hit the restroom, grab some food, and turn the phone off…you are now going to be swept away by the magic of our national pastime, the lovely game of baseball.
— Patricia Santos (@KOCOPATTY) June 26, 2016
First pitch, and we’re off! There are a few things you will need to know about keeping score; base hit? Draw a straight line from home to first in the mini diamond next to the appropriate batter. Next batter strikes out looking? Backwards K in his mini diamond. (see?!?! you learned something already!) Third batter up hits a weak dribbler to 2nd base? 4-6-3 double play and the inning is over. Write the 4-6-3 in the 3rd batter’s diamond.
Now the Dodgers are batting in the bottom of the first; Howie leads off with a can-0-corn to left field for out number 1. Simply draw a 7 in the diamond to demonstrate the the left fielder caught it, draw a little ‘1’ signifying the 1st out, and that’s that! Next up is Chase Utley, who slaps a double into the right/center gap. Draw 2 dark lines, one from home to first, then from first to second, and a little 2b in his corresponding diamond. Atta boy Chase!!
Why would I suggest you spend your time at a ballgame keeping score? What would you get out of it? Well, I’m so glad you asked!!
Baseball is finicky. The game can be dry, teams moves can seem meaningless, or won’t make any sense to the untrained eye. Why wallow in mediocrity, when you can dazzle your significant other with your limitless knowledge of the ballet that is the game of baseball. Everyone behind on this pitcher because righties are hitting to right, lefties to left? Be sure to mention that the manager should shift his defense towards that direction to make fielding easier. Late inning pinch hitter? You have all the active players right in front of you, and you’ll be able to predict who will get the nod well before even the manager knows!
Keeping score gives you access to advanced stats and information the casual fan has no clue about. You’re now intimately intertwoven with the game. You’re officially a part of the entire event. From first pitch to the last out, those keeping score are much more involved with the game, and are respected as baseball purists; hearkening to a time when scores weren’t instantly available; when stats were only found on page 4 of the LA Times, and you had to trust that the people posting them knew what they were doing and implicitly trusted their numbers. To me, keeping score at Dodger stadium is tantamount to being on the Dodgers staff; you’re privy to information the sacred few are given.
Attention to detail isn’t for everyone. Neither is keeping score at a baseball game, but for those who participate, it is nothing short of a sublime experience. Something that takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.