Anatomy of a Boxscore

by

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

The 2010 Major League Baseball regular season has ended. 162 games have come and gone, and as summer gives way to fall, baseball’s remaining eight teams will duke it out for a chance to hoist the World Series trophy sometime in late October or early November.

With the impending close of the baseball season, gone will be any more chances for me to scour the box score in search of….well, nothing really.

I can’t really remember when it started, but I have always found myself in love with the box score, particularly in baseball and basketball. When my late grandmother moved from the Chicago suburbs up to Northern Michigan to be closer to my father, my siblings and I, she kept her subscription to the Chicago Tribune, which was great news (no pun intended) for me. I fondly remember lying on the couch at her house with the sports section laid out on the floor as I shifted my body so that I may be able to read the box scores spread out in front of me.

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian studied and saved every boxscore from 1989-2010.

As I sat there staring at this massive collections of numbers and abbreviations, I imagine that my inner dialogue would have sounded something like this

“Oh look, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now, just the Rays) were 0-for-13 with RISP in a 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.” (actual line from a game in 1999)

I would often follow my inner dialogue with a “hey dad, what does RISP mean?” and other questions of that nature. More often than not, my query was met with an “I don’t know, look it up,” from my father. So I would. RISP, LOB, WHIP, ERA, OBP, OREB, DREB, all of these seemingly meaningless letters, in fact, meant something and I needed to know what.

It didn’t matter that living in Northern Michigan I was rarely able to watch my beloved Chicago Sports teams play their games. By reading the box scores and the play-by-play, I was able to recreate in my head how my favorite teams and players performed. If I had been able to catch a game on television, Michael Jordan’s Bulls were actually on pretty regular, I would still scour the box score the next day for something that I had missed while watching the game.

Why the need to study the box score from a game that I had witnessed? What did I feel like I was missing, if anything at all? I really couldn’t tell you. All I can tell you is that I really enjoyed reading those box scores on the couch at my grandmother’s house. I like being able to tell her that Sammy Sosa was 3-for-5 with a home run, a double and three RBIs. She didn’t care that Sosa had had a productive day, she only cared that her grandson was lying on her couch not 10 feet away.

Upon going to college my fascination with box scores continued as I was now in them. Having been a football and basketball player in college I remember getting handed box scores after games and looking at them thinking “huh, I don’t remember that guy getting eight boards against me.”  I admit, sometimes I checked the box score to judge my own play and see my own stats, but often times it was to see things like the turnover differential, the time of possession, or differences in first and second half performances.

No matter the reason I was looking at a box score, it was still kind of cool to me that maybe someone else was reading my stat line to one person or another.

The box score and the need to scour it still have a certain hold on me. Perhaps that’s why I became an SID. I mean, my job is now to create the box scores and to study and analyze them. I have run the complete gamut, from fawning over the box score as a fan, to being a part of it, to being the one who creates it.

I still check the scores of my teams every night on my Droid and I spend time (probably too much time) looking to see who is in a funk, who had a bad night and who had the night off. I just can’t seem to get away from the allure of a box score and I kind of like it that way. Now that my grandmother has died, I still sometimes feel like I am lying on her couch lamenting how the Cubs could go 1-for-14 with RISP (that’s ‘runners in scoring position’ for the uninitiated).

Post Script

Ok, so now that I have been waxing poetic about the box score for far too long, I figured I would try and find a few that stuck out in my mind.

Below are boxscores from my junior year of college. We actually won the first game 80-61, but as you can see I had very little to do with that. I mean, who plays nearly 15 minutes and DOES NOT DO ANYTHING?!?!?!? Not one of my prouder moments and boy, did I hear it from the coaches later.

The second boxscore is also from my junior year. This one was a bit better, granted the team wasn’t very good, but still. We won this game 103-79. If I was going to call attention to myself with a terrible game, I had to at least get one where I played a little bit better.

ONE TO FORGET

Click to enlarge this boxscore

ONE TO REMEMBER

Click to enlarge this boxscore

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