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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why I Score Baseball Games

I score every baseball game I go to. This makes me something of an anomaly among baseball fans my age. Even the most attentive twenty-something fans don't usually bring a scorebook and pen (and yes, whiteout) along to the game. Most fans my age are there to drink and heckle, and I'm all for this as well, as long as someone's going out to the concourse to get my beer for me. I don't want to miss an at bat.

I still remember one game I went to back in 2003 - the Labor Day game against the Red Sox, memorable to most Phillies fans because of the classic double bullpen collapse. (You can click on the image to see it in greater detail.)I remember it equally because I went with a friend of mine who wasn't a huge baseball fan. She was amused at my panic to make it to Vet Stadium in time for the first pitch, confused when I pulled out the scorebook and pen, and just flat-out stunned later in the game when, after making a mistake, I produced some whiteout and corrected it.

The two questions I get most often about my scoring are, "Do you score every game you go to?" and "Why do you do it?"

The answer to the first question is yes. Occasionally - and this is a very rare occasion - I won't score a game I go to, at least not in person at the game. But I will go back to the game log online and transcribe it into my scorebook so I have a record of it. I've done this only one time that I can recall in at least the last five years, which must encompass over 120 games. The occasion was $2 beer night at a Portland Beavers game earlier this summer; I went to the game with a group of seven or eight people, and it just wasn't going to be feasible to pay close enough attention to the game, let alone all the substitutions.

The answer to the second question isn't as simple. Part of me just does it out of habit and ritual - I've been doing it at least since high school, and now I feel like it would be a shame to stop, since I have such a complete record of every game I've attended. Every single game - major league, minor league, and college - that I've been to since July 1, 2002 is in one of my two scorebooks. I have loose scoresheets from games before that.

Another reason I do it is because one day, I want to be able to show my kids/grandkids/friends/etc. the books. I think it's really cool to look back at a scoresheet from years ago and see the names of the players, some obscure, some Hall of Famers, and see how they happened to fare on some random day. I'm not the only one - take a look at Jane Leavy's excellent biography of Sandy Koufax, A Lefty's Legacy, and you'll see that between the epigram and the table of contents, before the book even begins, is a copy of the scoresheet from Koufax's perfect game. You could also check out Paul Dickson's The Joy of Keeping Score, which directly addresses exactly what I'm talking about.

Koufax's perfect game is a perfect example of another reason I score games - because you never know what you'll see. In my books are the All-Star Game tie from 2002,and a 2005 Spring Training game where a player hit a grand slam and then passed a runner on the basepaths; he was credited with a three-run single and an out.

I bring this all up because the last two games I've attended happened to feature some of the rarest events you could see on a baseball field.

On August 26, I was in Long Beach to see a Golden Baseball League game between the San Diego Surf Dawgs and the Long Beach Armada. Independent minor league teams are prone to gimmicks - the Armada earlier this season featured Jose Canseco as a knuckleballer - and so with both teams already eliminated from the playoff race, the Armada attempted to make pro baseball history by becoming the first team to play two players in all nine positions during a single game. Take a look at the positions listed for Randall Shelley and Jason Collette:

Then, last night, I was at Dodger Stadium to witness something even rarer than a perfect game or an unassisted triple play - I watched the Dodgers bang out four homers in four at bats to erase a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. Ironically, I had been rooting for Marlon Anderson to get one more at bat so he could go for a double to complete the cycle; he ended up being the one to hit the fourth homer. As you might have heard, Nomar Garciaparra then followed up with a walk-off homer in the 10th, rewarding the crowd that didn't try to beat the traffic with the most exciting Dodger Stadium moment since Kirk Gibson's homer in the '88 Series.

See the note in the upper right? It's been over 40 years since four batters have left the yard back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I think it would be cool to see the scorecard from May 2, 1964, when the Twins were the last team to do it.

And that, dear reader, is why I score games. Because 40 years from now, that might not have happened again, and I will be able to look at a scorebook from 2006 and recount the time when [possible] Hall of Famers Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, and Trevor Hoffman all were involved in one of the wildest, improbable come-from-behind victories in baseball history.

And yes, this is my way of bragging that I was there.

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