Baseball is an argumentative game, right? And the worst brouhahas are between outraged players and stern, immobile umpires, right? Well, not always. There was the time in 1957, for instance, when Johnny Temple of the Cincinnati Reds paid a $100 fine and was forced to apologize publicly after he socked a man in the eye. His victim—tormentor, Temple might have said—was Cincinnati Sportswriter Earl Lawson. Lawson was the official scorer for a game the Reds had just played. His crime: he had charged Temple with an error on a hard-hit ball.
Outside of an umpire's questionable call, there is nothing in all of baseball that will give a player the psychic hots faster than a debatable decision by a scorer. Scorers' judgments have made petulant boys, crybabies and alibi artists out of otherwise friendly, clean-cut American types. They have led to numerous bitter scenes that the fans seldom see and to nasty grudges that have lasted for years. The scorer, by baseball law and tradition, is a sportswriter. He sits behind his portable typewriter in the press box and has "sole authority to make all decisions involving judgment, such as whether a batter's advance to first base is the result of a hit or an error." After the game he fills out a detailed, time-consuming form that is later sent to league headquarters. For this he gets $30 a game, which is fair, and "the respect and dignity of his office," which is a joke.
"Baseball is a game of statistics and ballplayers make their money on the basis of how well they stack up statistically," says Bob Sudyk of the Cleveland Press. "Scoring decisions are important to them and it's almost impossible to make any tough scoring ruling without displeasing someone."
"I've always felt that the $30 recompense is $1 for scoring and filing the official form and $29 for the abuse," says Neal Eskridge of the Baltimore News-American.
For example, in the Oriole clubhouse after a game in 1962, Infielder Jerry Adair, who had been charged with an error, found out that Eskridge had been the scorer. He called the writer over, cursed him thoroughly and imaginatively, and told him, "'Never talk to me again." They did not speak to each other for almost four years.
Usually it is the journeyman .240 hitter who sulks and complains, but not always. The Red Sox' Jackie Jensen, 1958 American League MVP, once lined a ball through a Tiger outfielder's legs on the fly only to have Larry Claflin of the Boston Record American call it an error. Later in the game Jensen singled cleanly; from first base he looked toward the press box and made a gesture which could have been described as less than inspirational to kids in the stands.
A less public way to register disenchantment with the scorer is to telephone. In one game Dick Farrell, then with Houston, was knocked out of the box by the Dodgers and before the inning was over he was on the phone to the press box berating Scorer George Lederer of the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram because the runs were earned.
"There hadn't been anything close to an error in the inning, but Farrell insisted they shouldn't be earned runs," said Lederer. "Figure that one out."
Even owners feel compelled to give scorers a piece of their mind. Last season Clif Keane of the Boston Globe scored a hit and an error on a grounder to rookie Infielder Mike Andrews. Owner Tom Yawkey accosted Keane in the press box between games of the doubleheader and raised hell. He apologized the next day.
"All scorers are prejudiced, the whole bunch of them," says Jim Nash of the A's. "They favor the teams high up in the race and they favor players who are having good years. All Frank Robinson has to do is hit the ball and nine times out of 10, if there is a question, the scorers give him a hit. It doesn't do any good to complain to a scorer. He'll just rook you worse the next time."