Baseball has been regarded as America’s pastime for over 150 years. Journalists back in the 1850’s regarded baseball as America’s game. Whether you are a big time baseball fan or not, most everyone is familiar with the box score. The box score is a brief snapshot of all the relevant statistical data from the game that includes all the hits and runs and which inning they were scored. A sample box score from a game earlier this summer between the Padres and Rangers is viewable below.
With the wealth of information available at our fingertips today with the widespread availability of computers and the internet, the box score might seem insignificant. What most people do not realize however is that the first box score was credited 150 years ago in 1859 to an English immigrant by the name of Henry Chadwick. Chadwick moved to Brooklyn at age 12 and had been an avid fan of baseball’s counterpart, cricket, in England. He started his career as a sports writer for the Long Island Star covering cricket matches. In 1857 after joining the New York Clipper, however his attention changed to baseball which was gaining wide popularity throughout the country. Chadwick was an amateur statistician and as a journalist he was able to describe achievements in the sport of baseball in a meaningful way that people could understand. In 1859, after a game between rival Brooklyn teams, the Excelsiors and Stars, Chadwick, published what is hailed as the first box score which was adapted from the cricket scorecard. While newspapers had published run tallies and other statistics prior to this point, Chadwick’s box score is strikingly similar to what we use today and can be viewed in the image below.
Because newspaper photography was not possible until the 1880’s with the invention of film by George Eastman and other photographic advances, the box score was the only picture of the game of baseball that made it to print. Chadwick coined common terms like the “strike-out” and using the letter “K” to represent a strike out on the scorecard. In addition he didn’t recognize walks or base on balls as a statistic because he believed that the beauty of baseball was the movement on the field. As a result, batting averages to this day do not count walks as part of the calculation. Chadwick’s creation and contribution to how baseball was viewed during these formative years led to him being coined the “father of baseball.” In recognition for his efforts, he was one of the original inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1939.
While baseball may have been marred in recent months with all the reports of the use of illegal substances in the game, baseball is still a significant part of the sports heritage of the United States. So the next time you go to the ballpark or hop on the internet to check your fantasy baseball team, remember Henry Chadwick. Baseball wouldn’t be the same without him.
Dave Baldwin is a businessman, musician, and divorced father of two boys. They live together in El Paso, TX.