Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Even Score Keepers Need Spring Training

Last week’s brief respite was because Paul Zinn and I went to Florida to see the Mets in spring training.  It was a good trip and, of course, very different than whatever passed for spring training in the 1850’s.  In New Jersey during the early years of the New York game, spring training was literally that - practicing locally during the spring (April and May) with match games beginning in June.  Clubs made up for the late start by playing through Thanksgiving since Rutgers victory over Princeton in the first college football game was about a decade off.

The trip also gave me an opportunity to practice my 19th century base ball scoring techniques as it is still not second nature like the modern system.  The 19th century approach was developed by Henry Chadwick and has a basis in cricket scoring as Chadwick wrote about cricket before having a conversion experience at Elysian Fields in Hoboken.  Some of Chadwick’s original score books are in the Spalding collection in the New York Public Library and understandably his system evolved over the years.  The first score books contain little more than runs and outs, but Chadwick gradually developed a more complete, and complex system that, no doubt, facilitated his game accounts in various newspapers.

The system I use for the Flemington Neshanock vintage team is more or less Chadwick’s late 1860’s model, to my knowledge the Neshanock are the only vintage team in the country that tries to recreate this system.  It’s complicated and very different from what’s in use today.  The first and most fundamental difference is the numbering system for the defense.  Instead of numbering the positions – 1 for the pitcher, 2 for the catcher, etc, Chadwick numbered the players based upon their place in the batting order. Below is the Mets line up for last Thursday’s game with the Astros with the left column using the modern system and the right, Chadwick’s method.

Tejada - 6
Tejada - 1
Murphy - 4
Murphy - 2
Bay - 7
Bay - 3
Davis - 3
Davis - 4
May -- 5
May -- 5
Rottino - 9
Rottino - 6
Johnson - 2
Johnson - 7
Den Decker - 8
Den Decker - 8
Dickey - 1
Dickey - 9

I was fascinated to learn that the reason Chadwick numbered players rather than positions is because during the early days of base ball, players changed positions frequently.  Ironically the same thing is true of how vintage base ball is played so Chadwick's system actually works better for scoring vintage games. 

Listed below is how the Mets made three outs in one of the innings in the game against the Astros, again the left hand column is modern day, the right uses Chadwick’s system.  As most will recognize from the left hand column, Tejada walked, Murphy flied out to left and Bay hit into a double play, short-to-second to first (clearly Bay is in mid season form). 

Tejada - BB 6-4
Tejada 9/0 2-8B
Murphy - 7
Murphy - 3F
Bay 4-6
Bay - 8-4A

Tejada’s at bat under Chadwick’s system shows another important difference.  Chadwick considered a walk to be an error on the pitcher which would be shown with the pitcher’s position in the batting order over a 0 for a muff or an error in today’s parlance.   The older system uses the same approach as today (with different numbers) for recording assists and put outs, but also adds the base where the out was made with A for first, B for second, C for third and H for home plate. 

The more I use Chadwick's system, the more I realize he had a reason for doing it the way he did and clearly he refined it as he went.  At some point I want to go back to the NYPL and work through the score books including the cricket score books to try to understand more clearly how it developed.  There is one carry over from Chadwick’s methodology, the letter “K” as the symbol for a strike out – it’s the last letter in the word “struck.” 

Now that I have had my "spring training," I’m ready for the first Neshanock game on April 7th against the Brooklyn Atlantics.  It's a tough way to start the season - then as now, the Atlantics are one of the best clubs in the country.  History does indeed repeat itself!

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