Per­son­al­ized base­ball score­keep­ing a fad­ing fad

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS BRIEFING - Chris Ersk­inE |

Base­ball is a game of touch­stones and tomb­stones and com­fort­ing rep­e­ti­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, one of the game’s saintly lit­tle tra­di­tions seems to have about run its course.

Each sea­son, fewer and fewer fans keep a score book at ball­games. Score­keep­ing — base­ball’s Latin — ap­pears to be a dy­ing lan­guage.

“It’s been fad­ing out for a very long time,” says Barry Ru­bi­nowitz, a life­long devo­tee. “There’s a cer­tain lack of lit­er­acy in­volved.”

Last Fri­day, the for­mer com­edy writer was the only soul I could find keep­ing score on the third-base loge level at Dodger Sta­dium. Ush­ers there con­firmed that they rarely see any­one “keep­ing book” any more.

Ru­bi­nowitz is not ex­actly the last of a species. But he’s cer­tainly on the en­dan­gered list.

“When I was a kid, it was dif­fer­ent; you could talk to strangers,” says Louisa Jensen of Glen­dale, Calif., who still keeps score at Dodgers games. “So when I was a kid at Wrigley Field I learned from a man sit­ting next to me.”

If you’ve never kept book, it in­volves a bat­ter-by-bat­ter short­hand ac­count of the game. Ev­ery­body keeps score a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. I cus­tom­ize my score book by adding “CB” (cold beer) and “HBHDW” (hit by hot dog wrap­per) to mine. When Alyssa Mi­lano shows up at a Dodgers game, I write a lit­tle “AM” in­side the shape of a heart. When a drunk muffs an easy foul ball, I write “DMEFB.” If Mi­lano muffs an easy foul ball, I write … OK, you get the idea.

Sure, score­keep­ing is an ar­cane set of chicken scratches that not ev­ery­one wants to learn. Fin­ished score sheets are avail­able on the Web, and stats are flashed onto big screens and di­rectly to your cell phone if you like, mak­ing a score book less vi­tal.

At An­gel Sta­dium, I found more score­keep­ers than at Dodger Sta­dium, but still only a smat­ter­ing. As with all things base­ball, the prac­tice of­ten harkens to the fan’s child­hood.

“I started do­ing it with my fa­ther,” says Jack Rallo of Cov­ina, Calif., a pro­gram score sheet in his lap. “And I do it now be­cause it keeps me in the game. … It’s just kind of fun.”

A few diehards are man­ag­ing to keep score­keep­ing on life sup­port

“I think keep­ing score helps me to strate­gi­cally un­der­stand the game,” says Steve Ferri of Pasadena, Calif. “Or at least that’s what I tell peo­ple.

“I guess that’s kind of like claim­ing that you read Play­boy for the ar­ti­cles,” he says. “But maybe the real rea­son is that I am just a nerd.”

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