Improvised Scorekeeping

Bethany Heck
Dunning 6

One of my favorite aspects of researching scorebook designs is coming across makeshift scoresheets. Some poor fan finds himself at a game and has no official means to document it with, so he grabs a nearby scrap of paper or notepad and makes it work. My friend Nick Sherman (a fellow historical typography nerd) showed me this blog from Columbia University Libraries that has images of William Archibald Dunning’s makeshift scorebook. In 1870, when he was a young man, Dunning converted a bankbook into a scorecard for tracking baseball games.

The book is not only a fascinating look at the ingenuity of a 13 year-old boy, it also depicts a wildly different game than we see today. There is one column per inning, each dot represents a run scored, and the numbers are for the outs (1 is the first out and so on). These 19th century games were very high scoring, with each team frequently scoring several dozen runs a game. It’s amazing that after all this time it’s still easy to read the scorecard and know what happened in the game.

3 Comments on “Improvised Scorekeeping”

  • fengypants

    Fiction writer and Red Sox fan Joe Hill wrote on his blog how he keeps score using the endpapers of whatever book he brought with him to the game. There’s a nice photo of one of his hand-scrawled scoresheets.

    I believe one of the margin notes says “Yankees suck.” (Even though it doesn’t even look like it was a Sox-Yankees game.)

    01-22-11 » 7:19 pm »

  • Bethany Heck

    Ha! That does say “Yankees suck.” Thanks for the link, that’s an awesome example of improvised scorekeeping.

    01-25-11 » 9:06 am »

  • yoshiki89

    Free hot dogs and/or dollar hot dog night are usually my favorite games to attend, but the lines can be brutal. If one of my kids or my brother-in-law is along, they can usually mind my scorecard if it’s my turn in the barrel (hot dog line).

    However, if my Dad or someone else is along, I always used Notepad on my Blackberry to keep track of what’s happening while I’m away from my seat (it also helps to pick a stand where you can see the batter and the scoreboard).

    Here’s one of my ‘notepad scorecard’ entries:
    9 b x c b x x s 1o
    14 x 1b/9
    25 l c b b fc/6-4 .14 2o
    4 x b f8 3o

    All with one thumb (other hand holding money, then hot dogs).
    Jersey 9; ball, fould, called strike, ball, foul, foul, swinging strike out (1 OUT)
    Jersey 14; foul, single to RF
    Jersey 25 (LH batter); called strike, ball, ball, hit into fielder’s choice (6-4); Jersey 14 forced out (2 OUT)
    Jersey 4; foul, ball, Flied out to CF (3 OUT)

    02-11-11 » 10:46 pm »

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