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A Box Full Of Goodies
Henry Hecht
April 04, 1983
As every serious baseball fan knows, the best way to start a summer day is with a heaping helping of big league box scores
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April 04, 1983

A Box Full Of Goodies

As every serious baseball fan knows, the best way to start a summer day is with a heaping helping of big league box scores

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As a big league manager, Herzog examines the box scores to see who is doing what to whom. Also to check up on any players he might be interested in obtaining. "To see who's going horsemanure," Herzog says, " 'cause you're not going to get people who are going good."

Clyde King, a Yankee executive, troubleshooter and occasional manager or pitching coach, calls the box scores his "lifeblood." He reads every one, every day. He says that "with the boxes I can almost relive the game, really and truly, since I know the players well enough."

To make his point, he turns to the box of a Milwaukee-Detroit game and points to the name of Gorman Thomas, the Brewers' home-run hitting centerfielder. Thomas was 0 for 2 with two sacrifice bunts against Tiger Pitcher Milt Wilcox. Gorman Thomas bunting? King says he's not surprised. "See, I know Thomas does not hit Wilcox."

King moves down to a Texas-Minnesota box and spots Buddy Bell's 4 0 1 0 against the Twins' Bobby Castillo. "Bell usually hits the good pitchers better than the lesser pitchers," he says. "Now, I want to see what kind of day a kid like [Ron] Washington of the Twins had. Against a guy v/ho throws hard stuff, his chances are greater." Washington, a rookie, was 0 for 5 against Doc Medich. "That figures, because Medich is a breaking-ball pitcher."

King is careful to check the left-on-base total when an older pitcher is working because "it's an indication of a pitcher slipping." He pays particular attention to the top four hitters in any batting order. "If the top four are held to less than four hits and walks, most times their team won't win."

Though King is less concerned with the National League box scores, he always makes a point of checking to see how many double plays the Dodgers turned, because that's a good way to keep tabs on Steve Sax, Los Angeles' young second baseman. "Box scores," King says, "are absolutely essential to me." (They're absolutely essential to gamblers as well. Because they are always looking for an edge, bettors pore over the boxes, checking for the return of injured players or comebacks by slumping players.)

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn has been reading box scores since he was a little boy in Washington, rooting for the Senators. He believes he got serious about box scores at about the same time the Senators last won a pennant—in 1933. "Like most baseball executives I read box scores 'upside down,' meaning I read attendance first," he says. "And I'm always intrigued by the time of game. Now I'm still working bottom to top. I look at home runs and stolen bases, too. I love the stolen base. The more speed there is in the game, the better it is."

And the closer the game is, the better the chance that the commish will examine the line score inning by inning, covering it up with his thumb and slowly uncovering the sequence of runs. Says Kuhn, "It's a wonderful way to draw out that drama." Kuhn also looks for individuals. He follows Dave Kingman closely when the Mets' slugger is hot. "If he's cold," Kuhn says, "I'll go right on past. A guy like George Foster, I'm curious to see if he'll pick up. I always look to see what Pete Rose does. When I get to the Milwaukee box I'm so overwhelmed by their sluggers, I go back a second time and see who hit home runs."

Brewers General Manager Harry Dalton started perusing box scores when he was a Red Sox fan growing up in Springfield, Mass. "Box scores are the reason I wear glasses," he says. "I think I wore my eyes out reading them all these years. As a kid I could never get enough baseball, and box scores were a big part of it. It's the whole recorded message of the day before."

In fact, generations before. The Fan thinks back to a couple of sunny summer days he spent in Cooperstown in the Hall of Fame library, going over baseball's written record. There was a box score from 1895, with the Baltimore side beginning:

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