Scoring a baseball game is a habit, a poem, a pattern, and a record. It is the collected and the scribbled and the scrawled and the smudged and the smeared and the erased. Hundreds of names, numbers, lines, letters, marks, and symbols make art or a mess.
Only weirdos see the beauty.
Our eye for clutter comes from spending too much time watching, reading, talking, and thinking about baseball. The sense has been developed by picking up five different newspapers every morning and by staying away from things like cell phones and BlackBerrys and iPods.
We can fake our way through the day, but weirdos can’t hide at the ballpark. It’s hard to go unnoticed with a pencil behind your ear and a scorecard under your arm. There’s a guy in my section who scores and does the New York Times crossword puzzle at the same time. He collects bottles and cans around Yankee Stadium after the games.
I’m not a collector. Once everything is completed and totaled and checked, I don’t mind giving away my scorecard to someone huddled around the players’ gate.
A couple of years ago, Ruben Sierra hit an extra-inning, game-winning sacrifice fly on the afternoon of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. He left the stadium with a huge smile and both hands raised to the cheers. I gave my scorecard to the man who yelled the loudest.
My Taiwanese friends love Chien-Ming Wang’s starts. They smile when I offer my scorecard.
I hope they see the beauty.