Sunday, August 27, 2006

Who Isn't Always Looking to Score? By Steve Reynolds

In the 30 years I have been a baseball fan (I count my fandom starting when I watched Hank Aaron’s 715th home run when I was four, and subtract from 1989 to 1991 when I didn’t care about sports that much) there are two things I’ve never done—attended a World Series game and kept score at a game. While I’m cautiously optimistic about the Mets chances this year of getting through the NL playoffs to the Fall Classic, I knew that grabbing a pencil and keeping track of intentional walks and sac flies was a much easier task to cross off my list in 2006.

In early July I scored a free pair of tickets to a Mets-Pirates game, but my friend who actually had the tickets couldn’t get off work. I decided that I would just go by myself, which would give me the perfect opportunity to attempt this most ancient form of baseball arts. So I grabbed the 7 train out to Shea, picked up the latest Mets magazine and a couple of pencils, took the escalators up to the right field upper deck, sat down and peered at the huge scoreboard, trying to match up numbers with their name on the Pirates roster.

Now I didn’t feel like a total rookie while doing this. During the occasional Yankee game I’ll catch on the YES network they’ll show an in game box score for a player using the common symbols placed on a scorecard. And when I first started going to Mets games with Zisk co-editor Mike Faloon in the mid-90s, he always kept score, so I vaguely knew how and where everything went. After a couple of innings I felt very comfortable and only once did I have to peek at the scorecard of the guy two rows down. It was a quick, cleanly played Mets win, which made it a whole lot easier than some 11-10 error filled extra innings affair. During the trip home I kept looking at the scorecard, amazed that there were only a few spots that were totally illegible. (Well, in my eyes at least. There are four-year-old children with neater writing than my penmanship.)

Looking at this jumble of letters got me thinking—have new symbols been invented recently for keeping score? With all the changes in our national pastime over the past two decades, someone must have created new symbols for amazing or out-of-the-ordinary events at the ballpark. And if not, then I was going to have to do it myself. So I present new scorecard symbols for our 21st century game.

9TBC — The team’s right fielder was traded during the game because even though he had a high OBP his contract was too expensive. (And was signed by a previous GM.)

FU5 — This signifies that the team’s third basemen is stinking up the joint and can’t hit with runners in scoring position. This has been used extensively on Yankee fans’ scorecards this year.

BLK — To be used when a, um, let’s say a bloated, big headed player whiffs on a pitch that they would have crushed…oh, perhaps three years ago or so.

CSD7 — To be used only at Boston’s Fenway Park when the left fielder gets distracted by the Citgo sign when he’s trying to play a carom off the Green Monster.

BPAWO! — This marks when Red Sox DH/first baseman David Ortiz—a.k.a. Big Papi—gets another walk off hit, which is usually a home run. As a matter of fact, he just hit another one while you were reading this sentence.

KNOB — To be used when an infielder all of a sudden can’t make a throw anywhere close to first base, named after the immortal Steve Sax.

CLROLAIDS — This is used for when a team’s closer has let the tying or winning run score in the 9th inning. Fans of the Astros, Brewers, Braves, Royals and Giants have been writing this a great deal this season, sometimes in their own blood after they chew their fingernails down to the bone.

BBDM — A temporary placeholder used by a scorekeeper when he gets distracted by a woman wearing a rather low cut shirt walking by his seat a few times during the game. (Not that I have ever used this symbol.)

FBMS — Used when a foul ball comes into the stands exactly where you’re sitting and the ensuing pandemonium to get the fifth foul ball hit in one at bat by the eighth place hitter for a last place team causes some idiot to spill his entire Coors Light in your lap, drenching your shorts, making your Chuck Taylors stick to the stadium floor and making your scorecard all smeared. (But perhaps later on you can say it was a scorecard done by Jackson Pollack and make some big bucks off it.)

So there are my suggestions for keeping score at a ballpark near you. Just remember—when the sudoku fad is over baseball scorecards will still be around, keeping the electric pencil sharpener industry going until the next century.

Steve Reynolds is the co-editor of Zisk. He rejected over 100 jokes about scoring with ladies during the writing of this piece. Alas, he thought of 101.

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