How To Score a Baseball Game With Pencil and Paper

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 29, 2008 · 28 comments

in Manly Skills

Photo by Go Cubs!

Scoring a baseball game with paper and pencil is a tradition that goes back to the early days of the game. Keeping score is a great way to get more involved as a fan. You’ll get really engaged in the game. Moreover, each scorecard is a story of each game that you go to. Scorecards make a great memento of all the baseball games you’ve attended. Unfortunately, with the rise of high tech scoreboards and cell phones that can give updates right in the palm of your hand, keeping score with a game card is becoming a lost art. Here’s how to do it.

Ready the card

Get your card. Most baseball programs come with scorecards. If you don’t want to drop $4 for a program, print your own from home from this handy website. Write each team’s batting line-up down the left hand side of the card. In addition to the players’ name, include their position number (see below) and jersey number.

Learn the code

There’s a shorthand that has developed to assist in scoring baseball games. You can develop your own style, but here’s the standard method:

Position numbers. Each position is assigned a number. These numbers will be used when you record fielding plays.

  • Pitcher- 1
  • Catcher- 2
  • First Base- 3
  • Second base- 4
  • Third base- 5
  • Shortstop- 6
  • Left field- 7
  • Center field- 8
  • Right field- 9
  • Designated hitter- DH

Batter shorthand. When a batter is up, keep track of whether he hit, got walked, or struck out with these basic abbreviations:

  • Strikeout- K
  • Looking strikeout (where the batter doesn’t swing)- backwards K
  • Walked- BB (base on balls)
  • Single- 1B
  • Double- 2B
  • Tripple- 3B
  • Homerun- HR
  • F- flyout
  • DP- double play

Follow the game

With your card ready in one hand and a hot dog slathered with mustard in the other, you’re ready to score the game. Each player has a row of squares with baseball diamonds next to their name. We’ll use these squares to track the progress of each batter.

If a batter hits a single, write 1B outside the diamond and darken the line from home plate to first. If the runner on first advances to second, darken the line from first to second. And so on until the runner gets home. Here’s an example:

If the runner scores, fill in the diamond with your pencil.

If a batter strikes out, write a K in the middle of the diamond. If that batter was the first out, write a “1″ with a circle around it. Indicate subsequent outs in the similar fashion.

If the batter makes an out after hitting the ball, you want to record how the play happened. Going back to our Jeter example. Say Jeter hits a grounder to the pitcher and the pitcher fields it and throws it to first base, the out would be recorded by writing “1-3″ across the diamond. This indicates that the pitcher fielded the ball first and then threw it to first getting Jeter out.


Easy enough. How about double plays? Let’s say we have Jeter on first base after hitting a single. The scorecard will look like this:


Now, Giambi is up to bat and hits a grounder to the shortstop. The shortstop throws it to second, getting Jeter on the force out. The second baseman throws it to first, getting Giambi out. Here’s how we record it. First, we want to indicate Jeter got out at second on a grounder by Giambi. Do this by darkening the line from first to second only halfway. Write 25 next to that line indicating that it was Giambi that hit the ball that caused Jeter’s out. Jeter’s row will look like this:


On Giambi’s row, we’ll write “6-4-3″ across the diamond indicating the fielding sequence. Above that we write “DP” indicating that he caused a double play. Don’t forget to add a “2″ with a circle around it indicating that he was the second out. Giambi’s rowwill look like this:


If a batter flys out, write “F” followed by the fielder who caught the ball. So, if the centerfielder catches a fly ball, you would write “F8″ inside the diamond of the batter who hit the ball.

If you want to show a runner on base getting tagged out or forced out, draw a line half way to the base they were headed to as well as the fielding sequence of the out. For example, say Jeter was on first after hitting a single. Giambi hits a grounder to third. Third baseman fields and throws it to second getting the force out. This is what Jeter’s row would look like:

At the end of the game, you don’t want a card that looks like this. So pay attention.

Photo by Hysterical Bertha

Make it your own

After you get the basics down, start adding your own style to keep track of scores. There isn’t a wrong or right way to do it. The trick is to find a system that will help you easily keep track of the progress of a game.

Here’s a good example of someone who has personalized their scorecard.

Photo by Spudart

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tito Toronto May 29, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Excellent post.

There’s probably going to be a debate about whether or not this is manly, or worthwhile of a post, or even if it is an Art of Manliness; but I’ll tell you what it entails. It entails intelligence, and intelligence on a sporting level at that, therefore being one of those manly intelligences.

Baseball, being one of the most manliest sports (throwing and hitting a ball, common), is balanced with intelligence (the upper tier of sports in terms of intelligence). Having knowledge of the Art Form of the Baseball Scorecard, which dates back to the very early and simple centuries and has real history to it, and is a time tested form of the personal sports experience, is definitely a skill worthwhile to have in the masculinity ammunition.

Realistically, this may be something hard to pick up and learn off the bat, but I do suggest that if there is a must-learn thing about this Art, it’s definitely the Lineup (Player Names & Order) & the “Code” (Position numbers and batter shorthand).

And that Personalized Scorecard? A Beautiful work of art.

2 Marcel May 30, 2008 at 5:12 am

I personally love baseball; my favourite sport, hands down and I never knew you could score baseball by paper! That’s awesome!

Whether it’s manly or not…well, who cares? Part of being a man is being strong enough to make your own decisions. This site is great for organizing one’s thoughts and learning new skills (like scoring baseball with paper), but it isn’t and shouldn’t be the decisive say on what is manly or not. Not every man is going to like baseball. Hell, in the country I live in, almost no one knows how to play baseball anyway. This is a blog on one person or a select amount of people’s view of manliness and I feel that one is free to agree, disagree, and/or ignore certain posts without having it be an assault on one’s own vision of manliness.

3 Zyxthior May 30, 2008 at 5:13 am

I think on the “jeterforceout1.jpg” example you’re missing the 1 with a circle around it to denote that this was the first out.

But overall, a GREAT article about another lost art.

Baseball is one of those sports that is both Athletic…but also Mathmatic….this is how you make math fun for boys.

4 Corey - Simple Marriage Project May 30, 2008 at 6:01 am

A timeless pastime. There needs to be more people involved in the games rather than there for the social scene. Great post.

5 Matthew May 30, 2008 at 10:11 am

I swear you were reading my mind Brett! I was just hanging out on baseballscorecard.com this week thinking about how cool it would be to learn how to properly score a baseball game. I got to thinking about it after reading this great article on esquire.com about 75 Skills Every Man Should Master (http://www.esquire.com/features/essential-skills-0508) which mentions learning to properly score a baseball game with paper and pencil.

Keep up the good work! I love the site!

6 Max Delaney May 30, 2008 at 9:30 pm

As a Reds fan, that personalized score card is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.

I’m slowing getting up the nerve and knowledge to score a game. I’ll probably practice scoring at home with either a TV or radio broadcast.

7 Libby May 31, 2008 at 5:31 am

Of course, when I go to baseball games, I’m usually the only one – male or female – for rows and rows (my season tickets are 5th row behind 1st base in Minute Maid park) scoring the game. So, I’m not sure it *has* to be a mainly manly art, but learning to score was definitely the thing that got me hooked on the game. I’m indebted to a couple of friends and my former husband who let me ask a million and one questions about the rules during my first hundred games or so.

8 Dad of Divas May 31, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Wonderful post…it has been a while since I have hand-scored a tally card at a baseball game. The last game I went to was at Wriggly Field with the Cubs and I didn’t even think about keeping track of the totals. When I was a kid, whenever I would go to a Detroit Tigers game I would do eveything by hand and I loved it…that also was when I was still huge into collecting baseball cards… but your post brings back a lot of memories as well as knowledge that I thought I had lost.

Look forward to reading more in the future as this is my first stop. I have added you to my blog roll and reader…

Thanks again!

9 Victor May 31, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Great post! I’ve recently started keeping score at games (the Nats, both the single-A Potomac Nationals and the home Washington Nationals) and doing so has helped me understand the game even more. To those considering doing it, I’d like to offer these two tips:

First, remember, for the most part, you’re just worried about the *batters* and not every little personnel change. Pitchers have their own little part of the scorecard; you worry about their totals when the game is over.

Second…stop thinking about it and just do it. My first scorecard is, I confess, a sloppy mess, but my third one was so tidy I noticed the guy sitting next to me looking at it, to see what had happened in previous at-bats. You can pick it up that quickly.

And I, too, recommend baseballscorecard.com. Not only do I use one of their scoresheets, so does a guy in the row in front of me.

10 Brett May 31, 2008 at 7:11 pm

@ all- Keeping score isn’t per se a manly art. This site is geared towards offering men helpful information (though we love our women readers!). So, if I try to write about stuff that I think men will find interesting and useful. I’m not trying to create a debate about “Is this manly or not?”

@ Dad of Divas- Yeah, scoring a baseball game by hand brings back a lot of memories for me, too. Some of my fondest memories as a kid was going to the minor league games in OKC, eating soft serve ice cream from a mini-batter’s helmet , and keeping score.

@ Victor- Great advice on “just doing it.” As you do it, you’ll start developing a system and you’ll notice your cards getting better and better.

11 Gen X Revert June 1, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Of course the great Phil Rizzuto would score the games he did color commentary for, sometimes scribbling “WW”. That, he explained was his code for “Wasn’t Watching”.

12 Craig Bohn June 2, 2008 at 4:05 pm

I scored the Brewers/Astro game yesterday at Miller Park. I haven’t done that since playing Strat-O-Matic, Pursue the Pennant and Statis Pro baseball board games!! It is a great way to stay involved and on top of the game.

13 haz June 16, 2008 at 11:12 am

base ball sucks like all american sports

14 Aaron June 17, 2008 at 7:16 am

I remember as a kid being fascinated by the instructions in the program on how to score when I’d go to games with my dad. I never learned though.
A few years ago a friend who wasn’t a baseball fan was invited to 3 games in 2 weeks (2 Cardinals, 1 MU Tigers). He decided that he should learn to score and turned to the internet. I learned from the websites he found.
Now it is an important part of what I do when I go to games. I even have a book that I can take with me to keep all of my games in one place.

15 Howard June 25, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Are the runs in the following inning earned or unearned?

1st batter singles
2nd batter hits into DP (2 outs)
3rd batter singles eventually scores when 5th batter reaches on error
4th batter walks eventually scores on 6th batters single
5th batter reaches on error scoring 3rd batter
6th batter singles scoring 4th batter
7th batter strikes out (3 outs)

16 Mr. Sweet July 28, 2008 at 10:11 am

Howard — both runs in said inning would be UNEARNED.

17 Emily September 4, 2008 at 1:16 pm

I am a 6th grade math teacher, and I plan to teach my kids to score a real baseball game. Hopefully I can get a few more interested fans, as well as teach a little “real life” math. I realize I am not the normal viewer for this type of site, but I certainly appreciate the basic instructions.

18 Rob January 1, 2009 at 3:07 pm

The big question in my mind is whether it is “manly” to waste the hour or hours watching a game as boring as baseball. Wouldn’t it be more manly to encourage people to stop being spectators and *do* something?

19 Leo January 25, 2009 at 4:31 am

Just stumbled on this page and must say scoring is an excellent way to participate in a game.

I started scoring a couple of years ago with some scorecards I printed from websites (baseballscorecard.com being one of them) I found when searching “how to score a game”. I now make up my own scorecards with two teams on one sheet and stats I care about. I’ll score from television, radio and in-person as it makes no difference how you take the game in. Although, I will say that a lot of the younger broadcasters today don’t always help the scorer out and often tend to gloss over some things in a game, so if you are not paying close attention you’re apt to miss something. The older broadcasters (who almost always score the game as they call it) will usually give all the details for “those scoring at home”.

Scoring is a lot of fun and keeps your head in the game which also adds to the experience. It helps you see a lot of the little things you otherwise might miss and it gives you that clear record of the game that you can refer to at anytime you wish.

20 baseballcouch May 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Just in case you are interested, you may want to check out BaseballCouch.com for free daily printable scorecards with pre-filled lineups.

21 Deb May 22, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Manly or not, this skill is not to be taken lightly! I took over for another woman keeping score (including counting pitched balls) for my grandson’s knothole team. Very stressful until you get eh hang of it. But when the coach now turns to me and asks how many outs, whatever (as he’s pretty busy out there) and trusts me to know the right answer, it’s quite satisfying.

Interesting site!

22 Greg June 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I was at game 5 of the 2008 World Series, you know, the one that was postponed for 3 days in the 5th inning due to terrible weather…I think I may have been the only person not sitting in a box who scored the game from 1st thru 9th inning. When the rain came down, I put my poncho over the score card to keep it dry instead of over myself. I just got is signed by Jimmy Rollins aswell due to his in-laws living across the street from me.

23 Kalee July 13, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Im doing it for the 2010 all star game:) thanks 4 this!! rly helped

24 Girl50 October 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Love this post! I’m the wife of a devoted Washington Nats fan, and I’m looking to learn about the game and watch it much more attentively. Learning to score will help “raise my awareness,” as it were, and maybe even improve my math and visual skills. Now I just need to do it instead of thinking about doing it!

25 Robert Milliman October 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I regularly post my completed scorecards. For example, I have scorecards for all the games from the 2012 and several previous World Series, along with others. Take a gander.

26 Matt October 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Yes, Robert, I too went looking for scoring stuff now that the season is over. Bummer.

Another method is Alex Reisner’s situational scorekeeping. It saves space, which means more room for recording information and has a more now-based record of what’s going on. I love it. It allows scoring of a game to the precision needed for meeting all the rules of MLB’s OBR rule 10 (scorekeeping and stats). It’s easier to follow the story compared to traditional and makes a beautiful product at games’ end.

MLB rules: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/foreword.jsp
Reisner’s page (has sample pages): http://www.reisnerscorekeeping.com

27 Jeff Walther March 7, 2014 at 2:53 pm

As a Little League coach, I find that great scorekeepers are almost as important as great assistant coaches. I’ve been very fortunate the last three seasons to have a player on my team whose parents make a hobby of scorekeeping.

In my early seasons of coaching as an assistant to other Heads, I noticed that the head coaches seemed to make the decisions of who to pitch by the seat of their pants. I started recording detailed pitch counts and tabulating them and found both that I was right, and that the head coach found the information to be an eye-opener.

As a head coach myself, I always find someone to keep a detailed record of the pitches thrown, including third-strike fouls, so I have a realistic assessment of what percentage of strikes my ptichers are throwing and how often and successfully they’re being hit.

A well kept score book, with the addition of writing in 3rd-strike fouls, tracks all of that pitching information and greatly enhances the performance of a team when used well.

This sounds trite and fundamental, but as far as I can tell, most LL coaches are making these decisions based on their imaginations rather than hard data.

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