Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeping Score - Profile of a Scorecard Vendor in St. Louis's Busch Stadium

Did you know the "K" used for strikeout comes from the last letter of the word "stuck"?

In this digital age of convenience and instant gratification, the classic act of "keeping the book" in baseball is becoming a lost art. But for a few, the tradition is still sacred. And for them we can be thankful that protectors of the game like Joe Palermo are still standing at post, selling the classic scorecard in stadiums of Major League Baseball. And, we know this because St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Dan O'Neill recently took time to profile Palermo as "Cardinal Scorecard Vendor Joe Palermo Marks 50th Year." 

Palermo turned 85 years old this spring. He began working Cardinals games when the team moved into a new downtown ballpark in 1966 and kept going when it moved into a newer downtown ballpark in 2006. A half-century is a while, no question. Palermo, who also has worked Blues games since the team arrived in 1967, started out in the ballpark commissary. But for the past 35 years, he has sold scorecards and programs. Both the peddler and the product have come far.

Baseball historians have traced scorecards as far back as 1845. English-born sportswriter Henry Chadwick is generally credited with creating the science of keeping score a few years later, the first to use abbreviations like “K” to designate a strikeout. The “K,” represents the last letter in “struck,” or struck out. The first letter, “S,” was occupied by “sacrifice.” Scorecards have been a part of the baseball experience ever since, kept by presidents, researched by historians, shared by parents and their children. Before the Cardinals played the Brewers on a recent Tuesday night, 12-year-old 

Thomas Taylor purchased a scorecard from Palermo. He was there with his mother, Amy Taylor, who introduced her son to baseball bookkeeping last year. “My dad taught me,” said Amy Taylor, of Cape Girardeau, Mo. “I was probably 7 or 8 at the time. My dad passed away, and the Cardinals are a family tradition.”

There is something soothing, almost zen-like in scoring a baseball game. My son learned to score from one of his teachers at school years ago during an immersio study of our national baseball game, and I have regularly "kept the book" at his games growing up, both as an asst coach and just a team parent. My wife has always appreciated when I keep the book because it calms me and keeps me from jawing on the umpires. It truly is an accent to the game, and I've enjoyed attending MLB games with a friend when one of us keeps score, and we discss the craft as we complete it. Keeping score represents true engagement with the game.

Thanks to Dan O'Neill and Joe Palermo for reminding us about the beauty of this aspect of the game.

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