such box-score lines are "beautiful." He especially remembers Sandy
Koufax box scores. "You would see one walk and 13 strikeouts," he says,
"and that's a very attractive thing to see on paper. It's articulate,
pleasing to the eye. There's nothing like it in the whole world."
Darrell Berger is
a Unitarian-Universalist minister in the Boston suburb of Scituate and a
committed Tiger booster. He once gave a sermon entitled "Why A Tiger Fan? A
Passionate Attachment To Non-essentials." Berger gets his box scores in
once-a-week bursts from The Sporting News. It saves him about $100 a year in
newspaper costs. Between issues of TSN, he stays up-to-date by listening to the
major league scores and highlights as they are reported on Red Sox broadcasts.
Berger sees the box score as "an aspect of preserving time. Box scores
build upon one another into a season and that comprises history."
Bill James, a superfan who never takes anything for granted and who annually
writes the fascinating Baseball Abstract, "You can track what an individual
is doing day-to-day during the course of his professional life in this simple
stirrings of James's skeptical faculties may have come as a result of a box
score he saw as a boy almost 20 years ago. "One game, Tommy Harper had four
hits and scored no runs and drove in no runs, a 5 0 4 0 game," James says.
"I can remember the account of the game said, 'Tommy Harper had four hits
to lead the Reds....' and it seemed puzzling to me that he was credited with
leading his team to victory."
little form," as James calls it, has been around since 1845, or as long as
there has been organized baseball. Melvin L. Adelman, an assistant physical
education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found the
earliest box score—New York Ball Club 37, Brooklyn Club 19, Oct. 25, 1845—in
The New York Herald while researching his dissertation, "The Development of
Modern Athletics: Sport in New York City, 1820-1870." Adelman, who grew up
in Brooklyn, has a scrapbook containing every box score of the L.A. Dodgers'
1963 championship season. He also has ideas as to why box scores appeared so
soon after the game of baseball began to take shape, and why box scores have
been so important for so many years.
"Quantification is a phenomenon of modern society," Adelman says.
"It allows you to mechanize and systematize, it's part of the industrial
process of modernization, and in the United States, as the most modern of all
societies, we have a preoccupation with keeping records, with being first, with
That first box
score (see box, page 89) was rather scanty. "Hands out" translates to
unsuccessful times at bat. Because Brooklyn and New York each had 12 Hands
out—ignore the 137-year-old typographical error that would make Brooklyn's
total add up to 13—it's assumed they played a four-inning game.
looking for other things," Adelman says. "I never figured there'd be
anything in the newspaper. In fact, this is the first newspaper reference of
any kind to baseball. All of a sudden I see this and I don't believe what I'm
seeing. So I called a friend to make sure I wasn't hallucinating."
By the 1860s, box
scores were no longer a rarity, and by the 1870s The New York Clipper, a weekly
paper costing six cents that called itself the "American Sporting and
Theatrical Journal," carried as many as 50 an issue (page 89).
The tabular or
top section, of the boxes was still limited to runs scored and unsuccessful
times at bat (H.L., an abbreviation that stumps historians). But the summary
underneath the tabular section and line score was already rich with
information. You want quantification? "Time of game" was already a