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Friday, October 29, 2021

Dime Scorecards Were Worth Something

It was a universal ritual at every ballpark, major league or minor. Fans would buy a scorecard for as little as a dime when they arrived, and by marking up little boxes that demarcated each inning they kept a running account of the game.

The arcane system could look like hieroglyphics if you weren’t versed in it, but for many it quickly became as familiar as the alphabet. A series of hand-drawn lines approximating the shape of a baseball diamond with accompanying numerals described the flow of play. A grounder to the shortstop who threw the ball to the first baseman for an out, for example, would be entered as 6-3; a triple would be recorded with a truncated rendering of a diamond that stopped at third base.

In the midst of a crowd, it was an utterly private undertaking. It was a way of making a public ballgame personal—and to take that game home with you.

The system of scorekeeping still exists, but “I’d guess no one under 50 does it and even then only a few,” said Paul Sullivan, past president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. There are so many ways to keep up with the flow of ballgames these days, including pitch-by-pitch summations and instantaneous metrics available on your phone, and so many purposeful distractions at the ballparks, from blaring music and between-innings contests to attention-grabbing gimmicks on giant scoreboards, that keeping score by hand is nearly a lost art. Mr. Sullivan said that he still does it, but “I’m a dinosaur, I guess.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 29, 2021 at 11:23 AM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: scorecards

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   1. Jose is an Absurd Sultan Posted: October 29, 2021 at 11:30 AM (#6049864)
I keep score at every game I go to.

This includes the youth baseball games I coach. A lot of coaches now use an iPad/iPhone program called GameChanger and oh my god do I hate GameChanger. People who do it by hand, never have a problem, people who do it on GameChanger, always a ####### problem.
   2. BDC Posted: October 29, 2021 at 11:41 AM (#6049868)
I still use the Project Scoresheet forms from – must be from the 1980s. I don't score games much anymore if I am on my own but if I go with my son, always.

The beauty of those forms was the realization that you don't need a box for every batter in every inning. It yielded more room to write down more about a given play.
   3. winnipegwhip Posted: October 29, 2021 at 02:06 PM (#6049913)
Has anyone seen a scorebook like the guy has in the picture of the article. That would be great to obtain/have!
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 29, 2021 at 02:27 PM (#6049917)
Nationals TV play-by-play guy Bob Carpenter has a custom scorebook he sells online. I believe there are others, too. Probably nothing for a dime, though.
   5. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 29, 2021 at 02:30 PM (#6049922)
Has anyone seen a scorebook like the guy has in the picture of the article. That would be great to obtain/have!

I've got a Peterson scorebook in which I kept a pitch-by-pitch score of the first Mets game. Naturally they got clobbered, but it's still a nice artifact.

When I had my book shop I used to advertise in the then print version of the SABR Bulletin, and got all kinds of memorabilia from sportswriters who were working as early as the 1930's. They used to have smaller versions of the scorebook you seen in that picture, and some of them had play-by-play accounts of games ranging from Gabby Hartnett's "homer in the gloamin'" to Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard Round the World. I sold most of them, but I did keep the one with the Hartnett game, along with one that has a 1958 Spring training game featuring Bob Gibson's first appearance in a Cardinals uniform.

If you go back a ways, some of those scorecards / programs had fabulous cover art along with it. Check out ones from the 1896 Orioles, the 1926 Indians, the 1936 World Series, the 1949 Braves, the 1953 Cardinals, and the 1961 Cubs.

   6. Papa Squid Posted: October 29, 2021 at 05:45 PM (#6049958)
Still keep score from time to time on a custom scorecard that I designed with MS Visio. My wife and I take turns, switching every inning, when we're at the game. In a way, it's easier these days, because if you miss a play, you can just open up the MLB app and get the play-by-play. Also, rundowns are easier too. No need to guess as guys are running all over the field. I remember taking the subway home from games and tallying up all the totals... now it's all instant!
   7. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: October 29, 2021 at 05:54 PM (#6049959)
We did not use the "truncated diamond" method to score a triple, because if the runner scored and you color in the diamond, you can't see how the runner got there. We used one line, for a single, two for a double, etc. So, yes, we'd have the "truncated diamond" showing a runner on first, or second, and as the runner advanced so would the line around the diamond. But how he got on base was noted by how many lines were in the top right corner of the box.
   8. The Duke Posted: October 29, 2021 at 07:08 PM (#6049971)
6. I remember going on and tallying the box score and then comparing against morning paper. If you were wrong in some way, it was very hard to figure it out because there was no place to go to find your error. I miss that

8. I used the single straight line to signify original hit (single, double, triple), and then dotted lines to signify further movement with notes in the section above the diamond as to which successor play has moved him up. I never saw the method you described until the internet came along. I assume there were regional variations in the old days.

As an aside I went to the Atlanta game a few years ago and brought my brand new transistor radio/earplug (one earplug for me and one for wife ). An attendant came by and stopped and asked me what I had. I said, it’s the newest technology. You tune this dial right here and you get real time announcing of the game. He was amazed - he said he always tried to listen on his phone but there was too much gap. He asked me what this technology was and in said “trans-istor ray-dio”. Oh, where I can I get one ? At the “radio-shack” which perplexed him.
   9. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: October 29, 2021 at 07:30 PM (#6049974)
8. I used the single straight line to signify original hit (single, double, triple), and then dotted lines to signify further movement with notes in the section above the diamond as to which successor play has moved him up. I never saw the method you described until the internet came along. I assume there were regional variations in the old days.


We colored in the diamond to make it easier to count da runzzz. That would obliterate your dotted line(s).


edit...and this was long before the internets.
   10. AndrewJ Posted: October 29, 2021 at 07:49 PM (#6049977)
I still use the Project Scoresheet forms from – must be from the 1980s.

As do I. Someone has blank versions posted online, and I download them before going to a game. When I was in high school in the mid-1980s I scored some games I watched on TV, mailed the sheets in to Project Scoresheet and they sent me back a mechanical pencil which I promptly lost.
   11. Jose is an Absurd Sultan Posted: October 30, 2021 at 05:57 PM (#6050130)
I built a scoresheet in Excel that I use. I don’t color in the box for the run, I write the number of the player who got the RBI.
   12. Gch Posted: October 30, 2021 at 11:59 PM (#6050290)
Is there actually an online version of the Project Scoresheet, uh, sheet? I used to a website for that bookmarked, but the page is gone and I've never found a proper replacement.

I built a scoresheet in Excel that I use. I don’t color in the box for the run, I write the number of the player who got the RBI.


You gave me a version (7.3!) of this once. It was really useful because the left side of the batter box could handle project scoresheet notations, and the right side could have the runner doodles to make things a bit clearer at a glance. Unfortunately at some point the file became corrupt so I've had to scrounge up other scoresheets, but while it worked for me it was the best I've used.
   13. McCoy Posted: October 31, 2021 at 08:36 AM (#6050317)
I scored a Phillies game for like 4 innings before I gave it up. It was too distracting for me.
   14. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 31, 2021 at 11:14 AM (#6050328)
I scored a Phillies game for like 4 innings before I gave it up. It was too distracting for me.


If only the games were longer, you'd have more time to score them.
   15. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 31, 2021 at 12:12 PM (#6050336)
Part of the problem with scoring is that unless you bring one of those fancy scorebooks with you, the scorecard sheets in most programs have squares that are too small for any detail. Plus forget it if the game goes more than 10 innings.
   16. The Duke Posted: October 31, 2021 at 10:02 PM (#6050427)
Games don’t hardly ever go 10 innings anymore. Scorecards have been telling us to use the runner on second in extras for 100 years !
   17. The Honorable Ardo Posted: November 01, 2021 at 03:48 AM (#6050465)
I have my own self-devised system, based off of my dad's old church-league softball scorecards. There's no diamond. Each batter gets a square for their time at bat, with a small box in the top right corner of the square. If they score, the box gets filled in. If they get put out, I mark an X in the box. If it stays blank, then (process of elimination) they were left on base.

The remaining 3/4 of the square gets filled in with the action (6-3, F9, 2B-Lln, etc.) and, if I'm scoring a major league game, the number of pitches in the plate appearance.
   18. Papa Squid Posted: November 01, 2021 at 09:48 AM (#6050483)
I've got 12 innings in my scorecard.

For a triple, I'd draw the three legs of the diamond, and then a 3B. If he scores, then I fill in the diamond, and note who drove him in.

My wife was always concerned about doing it "correctly", but I tell her, there's no "correctly." As long as you can read it back, you're good.

I used to score games on random sheets of grid paper as a kid. I found them years later. My Game 6 of the 93 World Series stopped abruptly during Joe Carter's at-bat... I wonder how that turned out!

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