Jerry Milani
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August 4 - If You're Scoring Along At Home...

A friend and I attended a Newark Bears independent league game a
couple of weeks back, and just because neither of us hadn't done so
in a long time, we decided to keep score. My dad taught me how,
shortly after he bought me my first pack of baseball cards; I think I was
about eight. I used to keep score when I watched games on TV, even
tried to do it to the radio, filling in my own details when Phil Rizzuto's
call left it at “...the pitch, ground baaaaallllllll... they got him!“

Then in high school and college, my arm and swing -- okay, my entire
game -- vastly insufficient for competing on the field, I worked with our
baseball teams, serving as de facto baseball sports information director, scoring every game. This
practice continued in my first job in sports information at UMBC in Baltimore. This doesn't even
include countless APBA games in my youth and all-night Strat-O-Matic-fests in college.

As I was scoring up to 70 real games including fall and spring seasons plus local summer league
games, and who knows how many dice-and-card ones, my interest in scoring at the ballpark waned.
Indeed, it had been quite a while since I had scored an entire game, close to 10 years perhaps,
before the Newark contest.

The Somerset Patriots -- managed by Sparky Lyle, whose late-70's exploits found a home in some of
my scoresheets, for sure -- and Bears provided plenty of interesting and varied entries on this night,
including home runs, triples, and more than a few errors. We even recalled some unusual plays from
games gone by, like the strikeout-looking, putout 7-6-3 I once entered back in my college days at
Fordham. (With one out and a runner on second, the batter had looked at strike three but failed to run
to first as the catcher dropped the ball, and proceeded to wave the runner from second on home as
the catcher's throw trying to get him at third sailed into the outfield. The left fielder tossed to the
shortstop, who threw to first to record the out.)

In the ninth inning, as the Bears were mounting a spirited but ultimately
fruitless comeback, a 30-something man whose XXL t-shirt almost covered
his entire stomach, who had been sitting to our right with his eight or nine
year old son, look at us quizzically.

“What are you writing?” he asked.

“We're scoring the game,” I replied.

“Are you guys scouts?”

Ironically, while I was on line buying tickets to the game, a young boy, maybe 10 years old, had
spotted the Dallas Mavericks logo on my golf shirt and asked the same question. I don't recall being
asked that question twice in one day...

After our polite no, he snickered and pointed to the scoreboard. “The score is right there, why do you
have to write it down?“

I felt bad not for our slovenly friend, but for his son, who for his father's lack of interest would not be
learning how to score today, or any other day it seemed. With the game hanging in the balance and
the visiting team changing pitchers, our hero chose to take his son and head for the exit.

Scoring a game, following along with each pitch and each batter provides a further appreciation for
the game's symmetry and rhythm. I had missed that.

Last week, I went to a Yankees game with my father, brother-in-law, his brother and their father.
Annually, we find one weekend date, go to the game together, and then visit Arthur Avenue in the
Bronx.

As we arrived at our row, a father and his son, perhaps seven years old, were already occupying the
adjacent seats. The boy had his scorecard out and was writing the names of the Angels players as
Bob Sheppard introduced them. “Figgins, 2B”; “Cabrera, SS”; “Vlad, RF.” The Yankee players needed
only first names.

Music to my eyes.

The boy dutifully entered each play, his father helping where necessary
with the proper notation. Though only seven, he stayed with every pitch,
interested in the game for its sake, not for the grounds crew singing
and dancing while dragging the field or cartoon subway cars racing to
the Stadium on the scoreboard. The game's the thing... (apologies to
Mr. Shakespeare).

I even offered some assistance, filling in the missing plays when
nature called our young hero and the rest room lines caused him to miss almost an entire inning.
The father seemed a bit surprised that I could recall the past few plays, routine outs that they were. I
made sure to pay attention so that I could provide the details so that his son's scorecard could be
complete. One of Rizzuto's infamous “WW” -- short for “wasn't watching” -- would clearly not do.

The game lasted more than four hours, and with the Yankees trailing by four runs in the eighth, I
would hardly have blamed them for leaving. But it was never even a consideration. Their faith -- and
ours -- was rewarded with a scoresheet that would record two Yankee comebacks in the eight and
10th innings and the eventual game-winning single through a five-man infield in the 11th (yes, I
explained, the center fielder is still '8' even though he joins the other infielders).

I'm fairly sure some of my old scoresheets are extant, probably in my mom's attic. I think next time I
visit, I may take a side trip up the stairs and see if I can find them. They may take me back to Yankee
Stadium, or my bedroom listening to Rizzuto, Frank Messer and Bill White, or to later bond-forming
Strat sessions. But wherever they lead, it will be a place that talk of steroids and cheating and salary
imbalances can't ever touch.