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Scoring Baseball the Traditional Way

Posted by on July 12, 2013

A recent article in The New York Times on hand scoring baseball games had me reminiscing about my youth and wondering why I had not shared this tradition with my son. For those of you not familiar with what the article references as a lost art, hand scoring baseball games involves recording every play on a paper scorecard using a set of traditionally accepted symbols and notes. For example, a strikeout is recorded with a “K” and I was taught to record walks as “BB” (base on balls). In addition to the standard symbols, many scorekeepers develop their own supplemental shorthand. Baseball programs typically have a scorecard printed inside and most stadiums will have a small pencil available with the program as well.

Baseball Scorecard

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It is rare these days that I see someone, usually an older gentleman, taking score in the stands, small pencil in hand, intent on the game. But whenever I do, my mind immediately jumps back 25 years to when my Dad taught me this ‘secret code’. More common back then, hand scoring the game made me feel very grown up and special, not every kid knew this secret code. It also helped me understand the nuances of the plays and kept me engaged on the game. Later on, I would help various softball coaches hand score our games, as one of the few players who knew how.

 Then, sadly, I forgot all about hand scoring. Reminded by the article, I am inspired to pass along this tradition to my son! He enjoys watching baseball games, however, simply watching can’t keep his attention for 9 innings. And I think the allure of knowing a ‘secret code’ will greatly appeal to him. Plus, this might be just the thing to keep him in the seat instead of running to the concessions stand for junk food, begging to play a carnival game or visiting the playground. At some of these fancy ballparks I can’t help but wonder if the kids know there is a game being played!

Share with us your experience! Do you know how to hand score baseball? Who taught you? Have you passed along the tradition to anyone else?

If you are interested in learning to hand score, check out this page on MLB’s website.

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