Personalized baseball scorekeeping a fading fad
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.”