Monday, April 13, 2009

"Tinker to Evers to Chance," Or 6-4-3

An overcast sky on a chilly morning can only mean that baseball returns again to Wrigley Field. This particularly local harbinger of Spring is celebrated in many novel and innovative ways. But one particularly unfortunate and overall trend in baseball observation, which some of us have noticed over the past several seasons, is the decline of fans at the games keeping score.

A written record of the game is hardly a vital necessity in our age of instant gratification and global communication. However, it is a grim downside of our technological progress as pencils and scorecards fade into anthropological relics and the art of scorekeeping becomes ever more arcane.

Above we present a rare Wrigley Field scorecard (click on image to enlarge) from a game in 2006 CE, clearly filled in by two distinct individuals. Each square denotes the result of each turn at bat by every player in the lineup. Obviously, the pair of fans who had filled out this scorecard had learned the process in separate environments. The fan filling in the play-by-play for the Cubs is likely to have been a native north-sider while the fan working the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates learned their technique elsewhere, possibly on the south side of town. Note how the visiting team's marks are distinguished by a primitive, cartoonlike quality as compared with the complex and more highly evolved geometro-numeric symbolism marking the hometeam Chicago Cubs' at-bats.

It may not solve the greatest mysteries of human civilization, but we risk losing valuable insights into our local heritage if we allow the scorekeeper's craft to fade into oblivion. Clincher urges fans of the game to seek out the elders of their respective tribes, and strive to sustain the written traditions of Baseball Nation.

And make sure to show up early enough to get the lineups.

1 comment:

dredzep said...

Actually the top half is easier to read at a quick glance - runs are clearly noted by the filled in squares and stranded base runners become easily visible as well. Perhaps it's this easy "readability" which lends itself to analytics that makes this the preferred style for coaches at every level of baseball organizations.
Of course, at least the seemingly random scratchings in the lower half of the scorecard stands as evidence to the fact that at least two people were paying attention to the game and that's something that's increasingly rare on both sides of town! (Just try asking anyone around you, at any ballgame, what the batter just before the one that's up did. Unless it was a spectacular play, you usually get a blank stare.)