SABR’s Baseball and the Media Committee formed a couple years ago for the purpose of researching how the media cover baseball, both as news (journalism) and as an event (in game). The thought was that we would seek to examine, illuminate and celebrate the people who and institutions that bring us the game by the pen and over the air (and through the wires).
The one part of covering the game that did not occur to us at the time was the most basic, and probably first, form of transmitting to the public what happened during any given game: the box score. It is neither poetry nor prose, but it is in the rawest sense the building blocks of telling you, the interested person who couldn’t manage to swing a day off to take in a ballgame, exactly what transpired during those 75 or so minutes. (Hey, it was 1859. Games were faster then.) And for the past century and a half, the box scores in the newspaper have been a staple of the baseball fan’s diet, and often the very first thing that fans turned to when they opened up the newspaper in the morning.
Ed Sherman, a sports media writer based in Chicago, just published a pretty good, tight piece on how baseball box scores are dying. Well, not completely dying. Box scores, in fact, are better and more complete than ever. Just compare the box score for the Tigers-Indians game from September 10, 1915:
To that of the Tigers-Indians game of exactly 100 years later to the day:
Just about the only thing that’s the same is that both are not good news for Tiger fans.
Sherman’s point is that the newspaper box score is dying, which makes sense, since by most accounts the newspaper medium itself is dying. Personally, I don’t believe that newspapers will completely die off, for the same reasons books made of paper won’t die off: people just like holding things they want to read in their hands, especially now that the riddle of how to keep newspaper ink from smudging your fingers has been solved. The newspaper will transform into something that will still satisfy that need for tactility, but might well be very different from how it looked when the Boomers and Gen Xers were kids, or even from how it looks today. But the baseball box score almost certainly will not be a part of the future of newspapers, which Sherman discusses in his article.
Will I miss the newspaper box score? In a way, I guess. It had been an essential part of my own long history of reading newspapers, but I haven’t relied on newspapers for box scores since years started with 19. It’s been so much easier just to buzz on over the Baseball-Reference, where I can see the box score for any game in every teams’ entire histories like *snap*, or my favorite teams‘ websites. Once you have that convenience available to you, it’s hard to picture ever having to rely on the old way ever again.
But that’s just me. How do you feel about the “death of baseball box scores in the newspapers”?
Before you comment on that, check out Sherman’s article here: