Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I dream of box scores

I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream in which I was struggling to fit a collection of box scores in the paper. Dreams -- at least my dreams -- seldom make logical sense, and that is so in this specific instance; without going into detail, none of the issues that arose in last night's dream are factors in the Free Press world of 2011. The dream would have made more sense in 1988 -- heck, the dream was practically a documentary of the headaches that accompanied newspaper production in 1988.

I don't wish to use the methods of the '80s to put out the paper today, but I do harbor a nostalgic fondness for the box score.

The olden days, before the Internet ... The Free Press was an afternoon paper, and we took a certain pride in ensuring that we had all of the previous day's boxes. Terry Steinbach, New Ulm native, was catching for the Oakland A's, and the New Ulm paper (a morning paper) seldom had his team's home games; we did.

The Sporting News used to devote pages of newsprint to the previous week's box scores. So did the Gannett publication now called Sports Weekly. I subscribed to both, and dropped both when they dropped the boxes; I took the decision as not merely economic but as symbolic of a de-emphasis on baseball. The Free Press, too, no longer prints columns of agate type summarizing the Cubs-Pirates or Angels-Orioles games of the previous day.

Economically, it makes sense. By the time we downgraded our stats package from The Associated Press, even I had stopped scrutinizing the printed lines and gone online for my fix. The Internet killed the newspaper box score -- not just by making the material more rapidly available than print can, not only by presenting it in larger, more readable type, but by making so much more information available that the old-time box score is almost obsolete.

We still get, and run, the Twins box score, but that's it. That's enough.

Still ... There was a time when I could study Henry Chadwick's ingenious invention and deduce from nothing but the lines of agate type that Toronto's starter had been knocked out of the box in the fifth inning when Eddie Murray hit a three-run double -- but I don't have to do that anymore. The play-by-play is readily available.

I'm just not sure I'm better off this way.

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