If you’re not into baseball jargon, confusing letters or abstract symbols and haven’t figured out why the positions are numbered, then opening up a scorebook after a youth baseball game might resemble a chemistry equation gone bad. Or someone trying to figure out the theory of evolution by numbers.
The so called inventor of baseball, Abner Doubleday, would be shaking his head in disbelief trying to figure out what HBP, LOB, SAC and RBI mean. He might think it’s an abbreviation for another airport like SFO and LAX. He might deem it a waste of time. But to Sammy the Scorekeeper they’re hidden offensive statistics that define the storyline of the game.
You’ve also got SF, CS, DP, SB, HR, S and E. Ingredients on the back of a bottle of Flinstone vitamins? Nope. Symbols for a new X-Box game? Not even. Letters depicting the size of your car tires? Hardly. It‚s just more offensive and defensive statistics to pore over letting you know how your team fared that day.
Don’t forget there’s AB, R, H, BI, BB, SO and AVG, along with IP, ER and ERA. These individual letters reveal how well each player played that day. Lots of zeros for hitters, bad day. Lots of zeros for pitchers, good day. Lots of SOs for pitchers, good day. Lots of SOs for hitters, bad day. Many Rs and Hs for hitters, good day. The same for pitchers, bad day. Confused yet?
Then there’s the numbering of the positions. Did Doubleday’s able bodied right hand man, Eddie Einstein, come up with this system? Most sports just have positions, but in baseball we have numbers. Only in baseball would you hear one father say to another, “Hey, my kids playing six today and yesterday he was at four. Hope he never plays nine, they always put the worst player out there.” A mother overhearing that conversation quickly replied by saying, “Well, my son played nine yesterday but today he’s at one and tomorrow he’ll be at 2. So there!”
Watching a recent game I witnessed a strikeout but the catcher missed the ball. He then proceeded to throw the ball into right field trying to get the force at first. The right fielder picked up the ball and threw it to the third baseman where they got the runner in a rundown. So the third baseman threw it to the second baseman. During the ensuing rundown the shortstop and the first baseman also participated. After throwing the ball away the left fielder picked up the ball and threw it to the catcher who tagged out the runner.
So, let’s see, according to the numbering system and the current rules of scorekeeping you’d score that K, PB, E-2, 9-5-4-6-5-4-5-6-3-7-2 for the out. An everyday normal play might be 6-4-3, F8 or FC 1-3. There are a lot of variations and it all depends on where the ball is hit. Figured out all the numbers yet?
All this aforementioned info must be placed in a small square within the scorebook that has a mini-diamond in it. Yes, ladies, there are more diamonds in a scorebook than Tiffany has stores. The more diamonds colored in the more valuable they become, and if you accumulate more than 10 diamonds than the other team you evoke the mercy rule and go home. In this case, diamonds are a team’s best friend!
Yes, scorekeeping is a lost art and most players and adults don’t have a clue on how to do it. I admire the ones who know how, right down to the last detail. And when you think you’ve seen it all as a scorekeeper, you haven’t.
As you all know the most asked question on any youth baseball field is, “What’s the score?” Just once, I’d like to be keeping score that day and reply with, “Well, the White Sox have two more diamonds than the Angels and have accumulated 10 Ks, two HPBs while the Angels have 12 LOBs and one SAC bunt. Your son was playing eight but now he’s at five and he threw out three runners at three.
Think anyone will ask me again? Or will they think I’m the star on Numbers, the new hit on CBS.
Rich Taylor is the owner, head instructor and CEO of Taylor Made Baseball. He can be reached by email [email protected]