The Scorecard – Baseball’s Shorthand That Tells The Story Of The Game

The art of shorthand messages or stenography is certainly not a new concept.  Shorthand is basically an abbreviated line for a letter or symbol to quicken the process of note taking. Shorthand has been used for a wide range of purposes, mostly to take down a ton of information in a very small amount of time.  Then, when time permits, the shorthand writer then translates those symbols and lines into letters and the message can be read and understood clearly.  Court stenographers, secretaries, even policemen all used shorthand before recording devices became the preferred method of getting a ton of information to someone who can then translate it out for a memo or report.  But, there is one shorthand situation which I still use in my life, the baseball scorecard.

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What does the term K mean?  How about a K written backwards?  Or how about 6-4-3? What do these letters and numbers mean?  It is baseball shorthand for players and plays that happen during the game.  A score card is like your modern day spreadsheet.  It has rows and columns which interconnect to tell the story of the game.  You can record the game’s action just by writing in numbers and letters and/or combining numbers and letters to tell the story of a play.  You can score a game the old fashioned way, like I do.  Or, download any number of baseball apps on your mobile device to score the game that way.  Scoring a game keeps you fully engaged in the game and is a tradition that dates back to the early beat writers of the early 1900’s.  Instead of writing down player’s names, what they did, where they hit the ball, their steals, runs, etc, writers and official scorers would use baseball shorthand on their score cards.  The result is a complete recap of the game.  Here are some examples of baseball’s shorthand symbols and their meanings:

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  • K – means strikeout swinging; a K written backwards means the batter struck out looking or without swinging the bat
  • The numbers 1 through 9 represent the player’s position on the field
    • 1 – Pitcher, 2 – Catcher
    • 3 – First base, 4 – Second, 5 – Third Base, 6 – Shortstop
    • 7 – Left field, 8 – Center Field, 9 – Right Field
  • GIDP – Ground into Double Play, two outs were recorded on the same play, most likely by the infielders
  • A number and the letter “U” means a player got an out unassisted.  3U means the first baseman got the ball and made an out
  • CS means Caught Stealing, a runner was caught stealing from first to second or second to third or third to home plate
  • F9 means the Right fielder caught the ball for an out in the air or a flyout
  • E refers to error.  E5 means the third baseman made an error on a play that resulted in a player reaching base
  • BB is base on balls or a walk (4 balls)
  • H is hits, R is runs, IP is innings pitched
  • 7-5-2 TO – The left fielder threw the ball to the third baseman who then threw the ball to the catcher for an out.  The runner was thrown out at the plate.  5 symbols represents the story of close to 30 words.  Baseball shorthand at its best
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I score the game for my Wickford Little League team, the South County Hospital Urology & Associates Dodgers.  Each at bat, each hit, each run, each inning builds the story of the game frame by frame.  When you start with a blank canvas at the beginning of the game and finish with a beautiful picture at the end of the game, it is just magical.  At any time in the game, I can let players, fans, even the opposing coach know who has hits, who has struck out, how many pitches were thrown, how many runs are scored, just about anything they want to know.  All by using baseball shorthand.  It is a timeless craft and I look forward to writing my baseball shorthand stories every game.

IN THE COMMUNITY MUSINGS

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