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Scorekeeping

I had to walk up and down aisle after aisle last Thursday at The Cell looking for them. You can still find a few, but they are scattered throughout the ballpark, whereas years ago finding people penciling in scorecards was as easy as locating empty beer cups.

"It's a lost art," lamented Ed Wiklak who grew up just a few blocks from Comiskey Park. "I score every game. One time I missed in the last 50 years was because it was raining."

We'll forgive Ed for this omission, especially since he figures that he has 600-700 games stashed away at his Wheeling home. Decades ago he graduated from the scorecards sold at the park to a scorebook that he purchased at Sports Authority.

Wiklak likes detail. Even before the first pitch - the exact time of which he accurately records - Ed pencils in the temperature (it was a frosty 50 degrees for Thursday's 9-4 victory over the A's) and the names of the umpires. After the game, he tapes his ticket stub on the corresponding scorebook page, and he clips the box score from the next day's paper and attaches that as well.

Don Bowman of Beverly is similarly organized. He uses a form that he got "from someone who knew [former Sox broadcaster] John Rooney." It's a useful grid just waiting to receive each game's details.

Bowman ("You spell my name just like the old dairy") still buys the current scorecard once he enters the park. At $1 this is The Cell's finest bargain. By far. He clips his form to the scorecard so that he has a solid back on which to record what he hopes will be a Sox victory.

Back at home, Don slips the form into the unused scorecard. That in turn goes into a file for the current year. "The scorecards go back to the '70s," he says. "I have boxes in my crawl space." Chances are that's about all that's in his crawl space since he attends 30-35 games a season.

Bowman's father - like all responsible and intelligent dads - took Don to his first Sox game in 1949. Bowman remembers newspaper vendors outside Comiskey Park who sold the paper and also provided a free scorecard for the game.

Of course, over the years Bowman - and many like him - accumulated tons of paper. Whether it was baseball cards that our mothers clandestinely disposed of or scorecards, these documents of record lived perilous lives.

"They [his earliest scorecards] went with the proverbial flood in the basement when I was in the Navy," Don remembers with a smile.

One scorecard that Bowman won't lose is Mark Buehrle's perfect game from July 23, 2009. "I'm going to frame that one," he says. No doubt Buehrle would be willing to sign it before Don hangs it on the wall so that he can invite all the neighbors to pay homage.
What is it that drives these men (and women as well) to write down every play of every game?

"It keeps me involved," says Tony Rothschild, who was sitting behind home plate with his 20-something son Jimmy on Thursday. "It keeps me watching. [Otherwise] my eyes would wander, and I'd eat too much."

Rothschild did admit that an occasional hot dog is part of his ballgame experience, but that's where son Jimmy plays a part. Nary a play is missed since Jim takes over the book when Dad heads to the concession stand. "I also keep score when I come to the game alone," says Jimmy. Nothing like passing the torch, or the pencil.

Rothschild also uses a scorebook, a rather huge one published by MacGregor. His wife bought it for him. With Father's Day coming up Sunday, I would think this to be a perfect gift.

Rothschild is not a packrat like some of the scorekeepers. He said that he's thrown away most of his old scorecards, but Jimmy says that "Sometimes I find them lying around the house."

Bowman says that his dad first taught him how to keep score; he says now that "It has become addictive. It keeps my head in the game. I like to concentrate on things that are going on. I've been doing this since I was a kid, and now I'm 70. I guess I'm just an old diehard."

This skill also can come in handy depending on where you're sitting. Wiklak was on the third-base side Thursday, but he often sits in the outfield where he can't get a good view of the scoreboard. "It's very helpful to keep score there," he said.

I love a neat, well-documented scorecard, and I was thrilled to meet the three fans mentioned here. However, I didn't keep score very often as a kid because I had an older brother John who is the Rembrandt of scorekeepers. If I ever needed a reference, I simply consulted what he christened his "museum."

However, there were occasions - such as the 1959 World Series - where I suspected I was witnessing history. Hence my scoring of the Game 1, 11-0 drubbing of the Dodgers.

59 Series scorecard.JPG (Enlarge)

This scorebook - a 68-page masterpiece which sold for 50 cents - has been looked after carefully for the past 52 years. No crawl space for that puppy. I can retrieve it on a moment's notice.

Thursday also marked the scoring debut of my wife Judy. While I scoured The Cell for scorekeepers, she diligently marked down each play, using the tips I gave her along with the directions listed at the bottom of the scorecard, courtesy of the White Sox. While her initial effort shows promise, the experience of Mssrs. Bowman, Wiklak, and Rothschild can't be duplicated.

As Wiklak said, "They should give kids scorecards for free to get kids doing it. It gets them interested in baseball."

* * *

Judy already is interested in baseball, but she now has a new skill to perfect. Wouldn't it be lovely if the Sox continue to inch toward the top of the Central Division so that her trove of scorecards could be viewed years from now with fond memories?

With Sunday's 5-4 win they've closed to within 3 1/2 games of the division lead. Consider that back on May 6, the team was 11-22 and trailed Cleveland by 11 games. Nothing like a 22-13 awakening to create some enthusiasm and optimism. All of this despite blown saves, a mostly dormant Adam Dunn - could yesterday's three-homer be a sign for the future? - and an inconsistent offense.

The Sox have deficits, but no one can say they are not resilient. I credit Ozzie Guillen for much of that. Sure, the guy rants when he's frustrated, but he has been steadfast in his belief that this team can be a division contender when they're focused and playing hard.
Apparently his players believe him. Ozzie says he likes the talent, and the talent sure looks better now than it did five weeks ago. Who knew? I guess Ozzie did.

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Baseball scorecards have moved into the digital age. Here are a few examples:

* The ESPN iScore Baseball Scorekeeper.

* The touchScore Baseball Scorecard.

* Pointstreak K-ForCE Lite Baseball Scorekeeping.

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See also: 10 Awesome iPhone and iPad Baseball Apps.

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Comments welcome.

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