Saturday, August 2, 2014

Keeping score with Henry

Photo by Dennis R. Tuttle

In this age of smart phones and social media, it's no surprise that some participants in the Gettysburg Vintage Base Ball Festival, including myself, posted pictures on Facebook.  Some of these photos were subsequently shared on the Festival's page including an excellent set by Dennis R. Tuttle.  Since I'm in the above picture from that collection, my characterizing them as excellent may seem self-serving, but considering the only part of my body showing is my right hand, this can probably be overlooked.  The attraction, of course, is not an almost seven decades old hand, but the score book which is probably unique in vintage base ball circles.  While I wasn't aware this picture was being taken, it happens fairly frequently, sometimes by a professional photographer for local media, but also by spectators who see me with a large ledger type book and decide to investigate further.  It's also not uncommon to hear the book described as "cool".  That his handiwork could be considered "cool" or whatever was the 19th century equivalent, probably never occurred to Henry Chadwick when he designed it almost 150 years ago, as the Neshanock's score book is a replica of the "Father of Base Ball's" 1868 version.

Recreating this aspect of 19th century base ball got its start early in my tenure as Neshanock score keeper when Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, club president, suggested I use Chadwick's scoring system and that we try to replicate the score book itself.  Fortunately, unlike many areas of 19th century base ball, there was no lack of original source material.  Chadwick described his system in a number of contemporary guide books (Andrew Schiff's biography of Chadwick was also helpful) and even more fortunately some of the original score books survive in the Albert Spalding collection at the New York Public Library.  On the first of numerous visits to study the originals, I realized that Chadwick had gradually upgraded his score book from the late 1850's versions which basically only provided sufficient space for runs and outs.  While the early clubs probably didn't need much more data than runs and outs, Chadwick's responsibility was to provide newspaper accounts for an audience, few of whom, if any, had actually seen the match.  This was also long before the days of press boxes with typewriters, not to mention laptops, so Chadwick needed a handwritten record he could draw on to write his account so he developed both a scoring system and a score book for that system.

Henry Chadwick

Recreating a 19th century score book began, therefore, with choosing from the different versions and the 1868 model seemed a good choice because of the detail it provided both on the game and on the scoring system itself.  With that decision made, the major challenge was replicating the score book page when photo-copying was out of the question and taking photos was initially prohibited.  The solution on a subsequent visit was to use a ruler to measure, not just the size of the page, but also the grid of horizontal and vertical lines.  As each measurement was taken, I used pencil and ruler to draw the same lines, matching the length, width, etc on a blank piece of paper as best I could while also recording the various column and row headings.  That was pressing against the limits of my artistic ability, but fortunately, my friend, Henry F. Ballone, is an expert on page layout (among other things) and with my work plus some pictures I was eventually permitted to take, he was able to design and reproduce high quality reproductions of the original pages.  The final step was having the pages bound by a bookbinder with a final cost of about $180 for a book with the capacity of 100 games or two Neshanock seasons.  While the cost may seem high, it is the result of binding the book and the amount of color on the pages.

My crude rendering of the original 1868 score book

The research and production of the score book came after I learned how to use Chadwick's scoring system which is dramatically different from modern score keeping.  Supposedly the only vestige of Chadwick's system still in use is "K" (the last letter in the word "struck") as the symbol for a strikeout.  Probably the most fundamental difference is the numbering system used for players in the field.  As probably everyone who reads this knows, the current, longstanding approach is the somewhat arbitrary assignment of numbers to the nine positions where the pitcher is "1," the catcher, "2" through the right fielder "9."  Chadwick instead gave each fielder the same number he had in the batting order, so, for example, when the Neshanock pitcher in last Saturday's game batted 6th, his defensive number was "6," not "1."  I read somewhere (not sure where) that Chadwick did this because contemporary players (1868 or earlier) played multiple positions in one game so using batting order places allowed Chadwick to record a player's defensive performance regardless of what position he played.  Perhaps somewhat ironically, playing multiple positions in one match also happens frequently in vintage base ball so this "old" system actually helps score vintage games.

The final product

It appears the numbering system also drove the layout of the score book pages and to some degree the size of the book.  In modern scoring each page typically includes the batting order, fielding positions, nine plus innings and game totals.  Since all pitchers are "1" and so on, no information is needed about the defensive team to score an inning.  However, when the defensive numbers are based on the batting order, the scorer, unless he or she has a photographic memory, has to continuously flip to the defensive team's page which can become fairly tiresome, fairly quickly.  To remedy this, I believe, Chadwick added a column after the 10th inning which listed the defense's batting order so the scorer has all the necessary information on one page.  I know from practical experience how helpful this is, as prior to recreating Chadwick's book, I used another version of a vintage score book that required the aforementioned page flipping which was indeed tiresome.

Some of the other features in the book (along with the fact it was "copyrighted") suggest that by 1868 Chadwick was marketing the score book in some fashion.  The best example of the broader intended use of the book is the listing at the bottom of the page of the abbreviations used for the different bases and plays.  Recording a typical ground out to shortstop requires noting both the base and the players involved so today's 6-3, shortstop to first out, would have been 3-5A if the shortstop were batting third and the first base man, fifth.  Hits are recorded with a vertical line crossed by horizontal lines for the number of bases, while errors or muffs are noted by the player's batting order number followed by a "0."  From four plus years of using this system, there's only one play I've found that Chadwick seems to have omitted, a fielder's choice.  That is, Chadwick had a way to record the force out at second, but no method of recording the batter's safe arrival at first.

There are also some other quirks to Chadwick's score book.  Although it's hardly a major issue, there is no allowance for a morning game (probably infrequent at the time) with the starting and ending time carved in stone (or at least black ink) as being in the p.m.  Slightly more significant is Chadwick's apparent lack of interest in recording the date of the match, since no space is provided for this information.  These quirks not withstanding, Chadwick developed and gradually enhanced a means and method for gathering and recording detailed data about almost every aspect of a match.  His efforts to protect his score book from the torrential downpour at the 1865 Atlantics-Mutals match at Elysian Fields shows how much he valued both the book and its contents.  And well he might, for it was the detailed game records that enabled Chadwick to write comprehensive accounts for an audience, many of whom never attended games, thereby contributing in his own way to base ball's increased popularity.  

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