So you think keeping score of a baseball game is easy? Think again.
In addition to simply recording the game's actions, scorekeepers face myriad judgment calls and must follow a system that has been around--in more or less the same form--since the turn of the century. It goes something like this:
Every position on the field is ascribed a number, and plays are recorded in shorthand or abbreviations related to those numbers and game actions. For example, a groundout to shortstop is recorded 6-3, as the shortstop (6) must throw to the first baseman (3) for the out. A flyout to right is recorded as 'F-9'--the 'F' is shorthand for flyout. A groundball to first when the first baseman makes the play unassisted is recorded '3U'.
"The scoring system is a shorthand way to enable somebody to reconstruct the game by looking at the scorebook," said Jeff Hertz, the official scorekeeper for the Bowie Baysox.
When Hertz is scoring for the Baltimore Orioles' Class AA affiliate, he records the game in shorthand and on a computer, from which the official boxscore is taken.
As for the judgment calls, Major League Baseball's Official Rules and Interpretations are clear on the matter. Or at least somewhat clear. They state: "The official scorer must make all decisions concerning judgment calls within twenty-four (24) hours after a game has been officially concluded. . . . the official scorer is not permitted to make a scoring decision which is in conflict with the scoring rules."
It might sound simple, but much of what's recorded in the official box--from whether a batter should get an RBI by hitting into a fielder's choice, to whether a third baseman should be charged with an error for stabbing a hot shot down the line but throwing wide to first, to whether a pitcher should be charged with an unearned run on the same play--can be viewed as a judgment call.
Such is the life of the official scorer. The payoff? Well, there's the $21 a night.