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.