A Waste of 50 Cents

I grew up in a small town where I was raised by my grandparents. There was one hardware store in town. As with many small towns of the era, the hardware store doubled as a number of other stores, including the local sporting goods store. My grandfather and a number of his cronies gathered in the mornings around the hardware store to swap stories and argue politics and sports. One day my grandfather went inside and bought a score book. It cost fifty cents.

Now we never had a lot of money, and fifty cents was a considerable sum back then, but he loved to watch the Saturday Game of the Week on CBS and decided he would keep score. My grandmother was horrified. She was absolutely certain granddad had just bankrupted the family. “It’s a waste of fifty cents,” she told him. She went on about food on the table, taxes to be paid, milk to be bought, my school shoes, and assorted other calamities that were about to occur because he’d just spent fifty cents on a score book. I don’ t remember concerns about the orphans of China, but they may have been there too.

I had a different take on the matter. It was one of the most fascinating books I’d ever seen. There were page after page of pages that looked exactly alike with strange markings all over them. I was fairly sure I was looking at some kind of new language that my grandfather would be able to explain to me if I just paid enough attention.

Most of you have probably seen these pages. There’s a column where you can place the name of the player. On either side is a small spot where you put the number and the position. This is the first time I knew that a player had two numbers, the one on his back and the position. Then there are 10 or 12 boxes with a diamond inside and assorted abbreviations down the sides. It ends with a place to put game stats like at bats, hits, runs, etc. At the bottom there’s a smaller set of boxes where you can place the names of the pitchers and compile their stats for the game.

It was all new and wonderful. I remember the hitters boxes having a diamond inside with the bases marked by small squares. Down the right side were a series of letters with words like BB or K or 1B or HR. On the left side were two sets of blank boxes, one of two boxes, the other of three. At the bottom of the diamond there was a big blank box. This went on for player after player, inning after inning, page after page.

My grandfather taught me to score from that book. I knew that 1B had to be a single and that HR was a home run. Those were easy, but then I found out that BB was a walk and that K was a strikeout. I discovered if you put a line through the appropriate set of letters (through the 1B if it was a single) and drew a line from home on the paper diamond to first, you could keep track of what was going on with each batter. I found out that the boxes on the left were for balls and strikes and you could even keep the count. If a man advanced to second you could draw a line to show it and if he scored you simply filled in the interior of the diamond. It really wasn’t that mysterious after all.

I still score games and I still use the method my grandfather taught me. Because he marked the K for a strikeout he didn’t use the backwards K for a called strikeout. Instead he used a C (for called). I still note it the same way. A ball was slash, as was a called strike. A swinging strike was an X and a foul strike was a dot (I’ve started putting an F instead of a dot in the boxes as I get older and my eyesight lessens). I still use the bottom box to record RBIs rather than outs and I have the opposite team’s pitchers on the page so I don’t have to turn to another page when a pitching change is made.

I taught my son the same system. I’m sure he’s modified it some to fit his needs. I hope he teaches his son to score also, after all, it’s a family tradition and I’d like to think my grandfather didn’t waste that fifty cents all those years ago.

A modern Rawlings Scorebook

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One Response to “A Waste of 50 Cents”

  1. William Miller Says:

    Great story. I have to admit that I have only kept score a few times along the way, but I like the idea of teaching it to my boys. I’m sure they’ll be just as fascinated as you were as a child. Thanks for sharing the story. Bill

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