Tales from the scorebook

A couple of weeks ago I attended my first Yankee game of the season—Yankees 4, Diamondbacks 3—and, per usual, kept score in my scorebook. On the train home, a couple sitting across from us, also game attendees, asked about the scorebook in which I was filling in the totals. This is not an uncommon event, but the man of the couple asked a question I’ve never really heard before: “what do you do with it?”

On short notice I could only come up with, of course, a smart-ass answer. (“Whatever I do with it, you’re watching me do it right now.”) This did get me thinking that I’ve now had this scorebook for nearly four full years, and brought it along to nearly 50 games. So in the spirit of doing something “with it” besides keeping score, we’ll look through the scorebook and find a few highlights to discuss:

Best Game: Tampa Bay Rays 2, New York Yankees 4

Full disclosure: It’s my scorebook, so any best game is going to be a Yankee victory. I’m afraid that’s just the way things are. Still, this was a pretty great game, even for a neutral. Tampa Bay scored two quick runs in the first but were shut out by a Yankees’ cast-of-thousands bullpen performance which included the likes of Alfredo Aceves, Jonathan Albaladejo and Brian Bruney (but not Mariano Rivera) allowing no runs in six innings of work. Meanwhile, Rays’ starter Jeff Niemann held the Yankees in check for seven innings.

Best Mustache: This guy

In the eighth, Alex Rodriguez led off with a single, ending Niemann’s night. After another single, and a run-scoring error, Robinson Cano struck out bringing up Brett Gardner’s spot in the order. Instead Joe Girardi sent up Jorge Posada to pinch-hit. Posada drove a pitch from Grant Balfour deep into the Bronx night, good for a go-ahead three-run home run. The combination of Bruney and Phil Coke retired the Rays in the ninth for the win.

As if that were not enough excitement, in the seventh inning, Derek Jeter (already 2-for-3 on the day) tied Lou Gehrig’s franchise hit record. Jeter would come up in the eighth with a chance to break the record but would end up drawing a walk.

And, of course, a game is not merely the play on the field. It was a beautiful night and I attended the game with my best friend. While it is true she spent much of the game mocking my scorekeeping—a system which involves black, blue and red pens causing her to dub it the “coloring book”—it was still a very good time.

In that spirit, I decided not to do a “worst game,” because really, any day at the ballpark can never be that bad. But it can be strange…

Strangest Game: Southern Maryland Blueclaws 11, Newark Bears 4

I’ve written before about my experiences watching independent league baseball, but this was an entirely different thing. While the Long Island Ducks, described in that column, could make a good case for being crown jewel of the Atlantic League, the Newark franchise was not as successful. In fact, the winter before I attended this game the franchise had filed for bankruptcy. They are still playing but have moved from the Atlantic to Can-Am League.

In any case, this game started nearly an hour late, owing to a Noah-level rainstorm. The Bears (as their bankruptcy filing indicates) have never drawn well, but the rain storm drove off all but a handful of the crowd. At the time of first pitch, there were probably only 250 people in attendance. The Bears’ stadium is not a large one—capacity is listed at 6,200—but still looked rather sparse.

And this was before the Bears surrender an improbable 11 runs in the sixth inning to the Blueclaws (which is an outstanding team name, by the way) obliterating a four-run lead and ruining the evening for the collection of former Major League talent in the Bears’ employ, including manager Tim Raines and both Jacque Jones
and Carl Everett.

(I had come to the game with the notion of heckling Everett, but there was no way I was doing that with so few people in the stands; especially since Everett is no longer welcome in the Venezuelan Winter League on account of attacking fans in the stands.)

Coco Crisp, hitting his second home on August 24th (US Presswire)

By the time the game ended, there were perhaps two dozen people left in the crowd. Somewhere in my apartment, presumably, is the official Atlantic League baseball that I acquired after it was fouled off and I simply walked over and picked it up.

While I don’t wish the franchise any ill, I’ve not been back to a Newark Bears game since. The whole experience was just so surreal; going back would only serve as a disappointment in one way or another.

Best Performance, Hitter: Coco Crisp, vs. Yankees, August 24, 2011

Ugh. I can’t say I enjoyed this very much, but I have to give Crisp his due. In the first inning, Crisp hit a solo home run to give the A’s the lead. He would later walk and have two singles, the latter driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. In the bottom half of that inning the Yankees tied it up on a Mark Teixeira home run and the game headed to extra innings.

Facing Rafael Soriano with two runners on and two out in the tenth, Crisp his second home run of the game, providing the decisive blow. For the day, he was 4-for-4, with 2 HRs, 5 RBI and a walk. It was just the second two-homer game of Crisp’s career—he’s since had a third—and represented a career-high in RBI as well. Combined with the clutch nature of his performance, this spot belongs to Crisp.

Still, ugh.

A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

Best Performance, Pitcher: Livan Hernandez, vs. Nationals, May 26, 2009

I’m as surprised as you are. Truthfully, though this scorebook has seen a number of very talented pitchers—including the likes of Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia—it is shockingly low on truly great starts. So Hernandez takes the cake. Livan pitched masterfully to record this victory, throwing a complete game (the first in CitiField history) while allowing just one run and striking out eight.

Worst Performance, Pitcher: Oliver Perez, vs. Phillies, August 23, 2009

This is an easy one. Over the course of his start, Perez retired just two hitters, allowing two home runs and six runs overall before being lifted—hilariously—after going to a 3-0 count on Pedro Martinez. Yes, the pitcher.

Luckily for Perez, his poor performance was soon forgotten as it was at this game that Eric Brunlett turned a game-ending unassisted triple play, the first in National League history and the inspiration for another column of mine.

As I said, there are still more than 50 blank pages in my scorebook waiting for games to fill them. I’m sure we’ll have a chance to revisit this topic when that has happened.

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I keep score because it’s cheaper than drinking beer.  It also makes a good record of or unusual things that happen at most games.  And, if anyone ever checks, shows my difference of opinion with the official scorer on certain plays such as hits vs. errors, etc.

Nice article!