When I watch baseball, I like to keep score. Admittedly, many people find this strange (since many people find baseball to be deathly boring), but I think it helps to keep me concentrated and focused. Plus, I can look at old scorecards from the years past and relive some of the great plays or pivotal games that I've seen.

A baseball scorecard is a piece of paper with a pair of tables on it. Most of the table cells have a small diamond drawn in the middle which is a schematic representation of the baseball diamond. The players names go into the far-left cells, in their proper batting order. There is one table row per position in the batting order (not per player since players can be replaced in the middle of a game) and each table column represents an inning. Each cell in the table represents an at-bat.

Each team's at-bats are recorded in that team's table.

The first thing to do is to remember how the fielding positions are numbered. This is because ballplayers are not referred to by name on a scorecard, but rather they're referred to by position. I can't pretend that there's any rhyme or reason behind the numbering scheme, but here it is:

  1. Pitcher
  2. Catcher
  3. First Base
  4. Second Base
  5. Third Base
  6. Shortstop
  7. Left Field
  8. Center Field
  9. Right Field

The scorecard starts in the upper-right corner of the table (first innging, first batter) and moves down as the inning progresses and to the right as the game goes on.

If the batter makes an out: A strikeout is recorded as a 'K' (some people use a 'K' for a swinging strikeout and a 'backwards-K' for a called strikeout). Otherwise the position numbers of the players who made the out are written down.

For example:

If the batter gets on base: Draw a line from on the small diamond from home plate (the bottom of the diamond), counter-clockwise around the diamond to the base the batter stopped at. I like to put a little circle at that point to emphasize that that's where the batter stopped. So for a single you'd draw a line from home to first base, a double from home through first base to second base and so on.

Next to the line (but outside of the diamond), put down the type of hit (W = walk, S = single, D = double, T = triple and H = home run) and the position number of the player or players that fielded the ball.

For example:

If a base runner makes an out: Draw a line from the base the runner was on to the mid-point to the next base. I like to cap the line segment to emphasize that the runner was stopped before reaching the next base. Write down the position numbers of the fielders who got the out next to the line.

For example:

If a base runner advances: Draw a line from the base the runner started at, clockwise around the diamond to the base the runner stopped on. Next to this line, write down the batting position (in the batting order) of the player who was at-bat at the time the runner advanced. For example, if the third batter got a single and the fourth (clean-up) batter got another single during which the third batter ran from first base to third base, you'd draw a line from first base, through second base and down to third base and write the number '4' above that line.

If a runner makes it all the way to home plate and scores a run, I like to fill in the diamond to highlight it.

Those are the basics of keeping score at a baseball game. There are many variations and refinements (which usually are modifiers of the basic scheme above; using P to denote a pop-fly and B for bunt, etc.) but this should be sufficient to get you started.

An example scorecard might look like this:

                     1       2       3       4       5       6       ...
                 |       |       |       |       |       |       |
Damon CF         |  6-3 *|       |       |       |       |       |
                 |  F9  *|       |       |       |       |       |
Tejada SS        |       |       |       |       |       |       |
                 |       |       |       |       |       |       |
Ja. Giambi 1B    |   / BB|       |       |       |       |       |
                 |   K * |       |       |       |       |       |
Dye RF           |       |       |       |       |       |       |
                 |       |  /\ HR|       |       |       |       |
Chavez 3B        |       |  \/ 1 |       |       |       |       |
                 |       |       |       |       |       |       |
Je. Giambi DH    |       |  F7 * |       |       |       |       |
                 |       |       |       |       |       |       |
Long LF          |       |   / BB|       |       |       |       |
                 |       | 6-4-3 |       |       |       |       |
Hernandez C      |       | DP ** |       |       |       |       |
                 |       |       |  ...  |       |       |       |
Menechino 2B     |       |       |       |       |       |       |
In the first inning, Johnny Damon hit a ground ball to the shortstop (6), who fielded it to the first baseman (3) for the out (I like to use dots to denote outs, so you can tell at a glance how many outs there are). After Tejada hits a fly out to right field (9), Jason Giambi draws a walk (BB) and reaches first, only to have Dye strike out to end the inning. After the opponents' half of the inning (not pictured), we move into the "2" column, picking up at the next batter. Chavez hits a leadoff home run; I write a circled "1" (since it's their first run) to indicate a run scored. Afterwards, Jeremy Giambi flies out to left field (7), Long walks, and Hernandez hits into a double play--shortstop to second to first--to end the A's half of the inning.

Keeping score is fun, if you like paying attention of the game, and you can wow passers-by by being able to tell them instantly how many Ks Mulder has. Try it!

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