Recently, I was digging through my closet and found my scorecard from a game at Shea Stadium on Oct. 11th, 1986. As soon as I opened it, I heard the ball cracking off Lenny Dykstra’s bat as he hit a walk-off bottom-of-the-ninth home run to win Game 3 of a legendary NLCS. That simple card, marked up in my youthful scrawl, was a more valuable memento than any pennant or bobblehead figure I might have come away with.
Unlike any other sport, baseball is a game of statistics. Inside tomes like the Baseball Encyclopedia such numbers as RBI, ERA and AVG tell the stories of whole seasons and entire careers. Scorecards are the building blocks for keeping those statistics. For years each at bat was recorded to be passed along and poured over by fans. Making out a scorecard is an elegant link to the past and a skill that shouldn’t be forgotten even as we are treated to the constant crawl of sabermetric statistics such as WAR, OPS and ISPO that runs across the bottom of the TV screen with every televised game.
The enjoyment of America’s pastime still boils down to its simple beauty, and nothing captures that quite the way a manual scorecard does. Even TV announcers still score games by hand. “It is vital to what I do as I broadcast a game,” says Joe Buck, Fox Sports lead broadcaster during the MLB play-offs (see profile, page 138). “Not only to refer to what has happened, but to know where the game may be headed. I have everything I need in one book right in front of my face, including bench players and bullpen pitchers.”
Scoring a baseball game by hand has some standard rules and designations–a groundout shortstop to first is ‘6-3’ or a strikeout is marked as a ‘K’, for example. You can also create your own shorthand, and years later you’ll be able to look back at your scorecards and see the game just as clear as you did on game day, better than any highlight reel.
One of the best aspects of manual scoring is that it’s fun to teach—a skill and aesthetic handed down from one generation to the next. (Instructions as well as downloadable scoresheets are easily located on the Internet.) So, next time you’re taking in a game, put away your iPhone with its ESPN app and pull out a nice leather binder and scorecard. Then show your son or daughter how to mark down the action. When you do, you’ll be living the good life.