Baseball fans still preserve memories on their scorecards

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While the crowd in PNC Park on Tuesday night was cheering, fans throughout the ballpark were scribbling that series of numbers -- indicating that the Pirates had turned a double play -- into their scorecards.

"It's fun to keep score during the game," said Nick Galik, 16, who was filling out a scorecard in Section 132 with his father, Jeff Galik. "You're not texting, you're not talking. You're watching the game. I'll look down and see how a player is doing tonight before he comes up to bat."

Mr. Galik, 50, a treasurer for a company in Princeton, N.J., learned how to keep score from his father while he was a young Mets fan sitting in Shea Stadium. He passed the skill on to his son, who employs it during a short tour of Midwest baseball parks -- four cities in five days.

"I still have one of my scorecards from the '69 Mets," Mr. Galik said. "I think it's a lost art."

In Section 123, Doug Ackerman, 66, an attorney from Mystic, Conn., is wearing a Cardinals shirt and tracking the game in his scorecard.

"My grandmother was a big Cubs fan and she taught me when we went to Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park," he said. "When I was a teenager. I don't know how she learned. But she did it and I always do it.

"It keeps you in the game, it makes you pay attention. It keeps you focused and it gives you a record. I keep them. They don't go all the way back, but I've got quite a few."

Keeping score at baseball games isn't limited to the official scorekeeper positioned up in the press box. Scattered through the stands of any ballpark -- at any level -- dedicated fans follow the action, tracking each play, each run, hit and error.

"But it does seem to be less common," said Jim Gates, 56, librarian for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and a paid scorekeeper for the New York Collegiate Baseball League. "When I go to major league games these days, quite often I will be the only person in the section keeping score during the game."

Mr. Gates said detailed scorekeeping at baseball games is as old as the sport itself.

"It's actually related to scorekeeping for cricket games," said Mr. Gates, who was taught by his mother. "Cricket was a sport that always had detailed records kept, and that just kind of naturally transferred over to baseball. Over the years it's gone from a relatively simple way of tracking the scoring of runs to the very detailed scoresheets that people have on paper and on computers."

The Hall of Fame has more than 10,000 scorecards in its library, some from the 1850s. The most valuable, Mr. Gates said, probably is a 4x6 inch card recording the first perfect game, pitched by Lee Richmond for the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1880.

"We also have [broadcaster] Russ Hodges' scorecard from Bobby Thompson's 'Shot Heard Round the World,'" Mr. Gates said. "It's interesting because, in all the excitement, he forgot to fill in the home run."

Changes in culture and technology have made scorekeeping less common. Back in the day, once you were seated in the ballpark, you couldn't talk on the phone or access the Internet. There are more distractions, Mr. Gates said.

"I think people who keep score tend to be archivists at heart," he said. "I refer to scorecards as the first draft of history. Somebody who was at the game. And you can have 10 people sitting together, all keeping score of the exact same game, and their scorecards are not going to look alike. Everybody keeps score in a slightly different fashion, from the way they mark strikeouts, to the way they mark hits, to the way they mark outs.

"They're like snowflakes. No two are ever alike."

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Dan Majors: This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to:


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