On July 4, I did something I have not done at a Cardinals baseball game in a few decades.
I bought a scorecard and kept score.
I can't remember the last time I kept score. I'm betting it was the mid-1980s while I was stringing games for the Associated Press. But that was for work and not for fun.
I'm not sure when or why I stopped keeping score at ballgames.
It may have been too challenging to write with a cold beer in one hand and peanuts in the other.
Can't blame parenthood because I had stopped well before children.
Maybe I associated a scorecard with work after a decade in sports writing.
Or maybe it just wasn't fun anymore to follow every batter and play and record it on paper.
So I stopped because it wasn't cool any more. I figured it was part of my past. There didn't seem to be any reasons to start again.
I grew up keeping a scorecard at Cardinals games. I was a little baseball nerd. Spent nights reading the back of players' baseball cards. "This Week in Baseball" with Mel Allen was my favorite TV show.
I was probably 6 or 7 years old when my grandpa and aunt taught me how to keep score. We went to a lot of Cardinal games together. Sat in the Terrace Reserved at the top of the old Busch Stadium II, or in the left field bleachers.
In hindsight, I think my grandpa and aunt taught me to keep score to keep me more focused on the game and not the vendors selling soda, popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy and Cracker Jack.
It taught me a lot about baseball, and it was one of the reasons I loved the game at such an early age.
A scorecard, in my little baseball world, allowed me to relive the game once I got home. At the time, there there were few game highlights on TV. You had to wait for the morning newspaper to read a report on the previous night's game. All the Ks, F-8s and 5-4-3 double plays painted a memory of the game I had just watched.
Why did I decide to keep score again, here in summer 2014?
First, I wanted to be sure I still remembered how. I did.
Also, I'm finding baseball games a little boring. I hoped doing the paperwork would keep me focused on the game itself more than my iPhone, Kiss Cam, or non-stop crowd interviews and contests on the big video scoreboard.
Keeping a scorecard, in my own adult baseball nerdiness, offered a shot at returning a piece of tradition to the ballpark.
In the 1960s, scorecards were a dime. For the July 4 Cardinals-Marlins game, I bought my scorecard inside Gate 2. It was $2.50, plus a dollar for a pencil. I didn't think that was unreasonable, all things considered.
Once at my seat, I wrote down the starting lineups as PA announcer John Ulett shared them. The Cardinal names were not a problem. But I struggled with the Marlins names like Marcell Ozuna and Donovan Solano. I had no idea how to spell Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Scorecards today have a page of instructions ("Keeping Score the Cardinal Way") for those fans not lucky enough to have had grandparents or an aunt teach them.
I looked around the stadium and saw no one else in nearby sections keeping a scorecard.
I wondered if any kids keep score nowadays?
Why would a kid want to mess with it when he can get up-to-the-minute box scores and stats on his iPhone?
My scorecard was orderly until late in the game when there were relief pitchers and pinch hitters. Just like decades ago, I had a hard time squeezing all the names and innings inside the lines.
There were Ks, and a few 6-4-3 double plays, and a WP (wild pitch).
What had not changed was, by the end of the game, only I could read my scorecard, due to my bad penmanship and much erasing and scratch-outs.
The Cards won the game, 3-2. I'll keep score again but it likely won't become a tradition. It helped me keep focus on the game, though. Heck, I didn't even stand when the pretty young girls stood atop the dugout and shot T-shirts into the crowd.
I can't say keeping score made me feel like a kid again, either. But it reminded me of going to games with my grandparents and aunt as a child, and that memory is always an HR (home run).