Thursday, August 23, 2012

A lost art

Normally, I try to knock out at least one post a day on this blog.

It keeps me fresh, it keeps me thinking, and it keeps me writing, which might prove especially important given that school is back in session.

If I take a day off from blogging, I try to make them count. (Much like Ferris Bueller.)

That was indeed the case yesterday.

What started out as a pretty dismal day turned into an unquestioned highlight of the summer.

I went to a baseball game.

But it wasn't your ordinary baseball game. It was a nighttime White Sox-Yankees contest at good ol' Comiskey Park. (I refuse to acknowledge the stadium as "U.S. Cellular Field".)

Not only that, but my friends and I got the best parking in the house. One might refer to it as "rock star" parking, right across the street from the stadium entrance.

I'd never realized how important a good parking spot at a ballgame could be.

In addition to great parking, we also had fantastic seats, at 17 rows back from the dugout along the first base line. (Still no foul balls in the vicinity, though.)

I'm neither a Yankee fan nor a Yankee hater. If there's a middle ground with the Bronx Bombers, that's where I'm at as a baseball fan.

Still, despite my overall indifference towards the franchise, I'd always wanted to see a Yankees game in person, although I wasn't rooting for them in this one. Quite the contrary, actually.

In what turned out to be a surprisingly quick game (especially since the Yankees were involved), the Sox bested the Bombers 2-1, thanks to spectacular pitching from Chris Sale and a go-ahead homer by Alex Rios in the sixth.

Plus, I got to see Ichiro in the flesh for the second time, although he went 0-3 with three K's. (I attended a White Sox-Mariners game last season.)

It was a great day at the ballpark.

While the simple joy of going to a baseball game could never wear off, I've noticed something the last few times that's disappointed me.

It seems like less and less people keep score at games these days.

Out of the entire section of fans by our seats, exactly one of them had a scorecard. (I'll admit that I skipped keeping score this time around, specifically because I wanted to save what little cash I had for a famous ballpark hot dog.)

It does involve a decent amount of work on the scorer's part, but it keeps you in focus with the game, noticing every little thing that goes on throughout the course of it. That's why I love to keep score, anyways.

Some of my favorite baseball cards involve little statistical highlights or box score themes.

It's a huge reason why the "Official Box Score" inserts from the obscure 2005 Classic Clippings set are some of my favorites in the history of this hobby.

Not only that, but each is individually numbered to the year the specific game took place. (The Mazeroski is numbered to 1,960 copies, for example.)

There might be another explanation for this, though.

When it comes to baseball stats, maybe I'm just a huge dork.

If that's true, then I've always been a dork, I guess.

Surprisingly, I don't remember when my first baseball game was. Nor do I remember the first time I kept score.

But judging from this scorecard specimen, I was already a regular stat geek by the time I was in eighth grade.

This particular game is especially ingrained into my memory.

Back in my middle school days, I was a member of a "peer leading" group. Looking back on it, I couldn't tell you what we actually did in the group.

All I remember is that we got to go to a Cubs game at the end of the school year. Not only that, but we got to miss an entire day of school for it.

I ask you, what could be better?

As usual, I kept a scorecard. I specifically remember getting a couple odd looks from a few of my friends when I bought it.

Although the Cubs got demolished 8-0 by the lowly Pirates that afternoon, I kept score right up until the end. (At least in my eighth grade style of scoring, which I've since refined.)

Perhaps the best part about keeping a score is that it stays with you for the long haul. I know I've kept all my scorecards from over the years.

When I flipped through this one after I scanned it for this post, I was immediately taken back to that seemingly insignificant Cubs-Pirates game.

I'd forgotten that Zach Duke twirled a complete-game shutout against the Cubbies that afternoon. (His only one of the '06 season.)

It also got me thinking about guys that I hadn't thought about in ages. Michael Barrett, Roberto Novoa, Angel Guzman...the names just kept on coming.

And, of course, who could forget the Cubs' lone pinch-hitter that afternoon, Michael Restovich? (For what it's worth, he struck out to end the eighth inning.)

The greatest part of keeping a scorecard is that it doesn't matter how you do it. It's not like a homework assignment, something that comes with a "grade".

You can keep score however you want. As I always say, no two scorecards are the same.

For that reason, keeping score is indeed a work of art.


night owl said...

I enjoy keeping score, but I reserve it basically for when I'm covering a game for the newspaper (not that I do that much anymore).

I get to go to so few games for recreation that I want to enjoy the full experience, without looking down into a book half the game.

Ryan said...

Great post!

I can remember my father teaching me how to keep a score. It was a Braves game for sure but I couldn't tell you which one. I might have kept the program though, now that I think about it! I have piles and piles of SI's, Beckett's, programs, etc. at my parents' house.

I need to get on that and see if I can find my own box-score treasure. Thanks for the inspiration, Nick.

I think I would be hard pressed to keep the score for myself anymore. I'm a VERY sentimental person, so it's hard for me to say that but I kind of agree with Night Owl - if I'm lucky enough to find myself at a ballgame, I'll be too excited to focus on the task (or freaking out about shielding my family from foul balls & foul language)

But you better believe my son and daughter will have to sit through ONE game....just one....where they have to endure their old man telling them how to keep score.

I might even take them out of school to do it, too :)