Score.

Baseball expert Richard Hershberger made a Wordorigins post about the term “box score,” which “is something of a mystery”:

Baseball box scores date to the 1840s, modeled off cricket scores. The main difference is that a cricket match being at most two innings, it can have a full score for each innings, with the number of runs for each batsman and how he was put out. This was obviously impractical for baseball, so from the start the score was compressed, with the results of the innings combined into one column. But the modeling from cricket was clear.

So much for the artifact. The term doesn’t appear until the second half of the 1890s. Prior to that it was simply the “score.” Where did “box score” come from? Dickson’s Baseball Dictionary cites a Ph.D. dissertation from 1939 on baseball terminology, that claims it is derived “from the old newspaper custom of placing the data in a boxed-off section on the page.” I am unconvinced. […]

I asked what they called the score (Reds 3, Mets 0) when they called the box score a score, and I found his response interesting and unexpected enough to post here:

It goes back to cricket, as is typically the case with early baseball. The printed cricket score has separate sections for each innings, each listing how many runs each batsman scored and who put him out. It resembles a baseball box score, but with two of them. This is essentially identical to what the scorer recorded as it happened. This is not practical with baseball, with its nine innings. The scorer records each plate appearance in a nine-by-nine array, with rows for the nine players and columns for the nine innings. This would be a bit much to publish in the newspaper, even considering that the earliest scorers recorded only runs and outs. I have seen only one published example of this. From the start, the score had to be condensed. You might compress the rows, resulting in a line score with runs scored each inning. Or you might compress the columns, giving runs and outs for each player. Or you might compress both, reporting only the final score for each team. All three were common. The second option, reporting runs and outs for each player, was popular for important games, giving as it does the most information, as most closely resembling the cricket score. The first two compressions might even both be included for the really big games. But in all three cases, it was simply the “score.”

Comments

  1. The printed cricket score has separate sections for each innings, each listing how many runs each batsman scored and who put him out. It resembles a baseball box score, but with two of them. This is essentially identical to what the scorer recorded as it happened. This is not practical with baseball, with its nine innings. The scorer records each plate appearance in a nine-by-nine array, with rows for the nine players and columns for the nine innings.

    I think there is a sort of symmetry here which arises from the way the two games are structured. A game of baseball centres around pitchers who stay in play facing a frequent turnover of batters until retired permanently whereas a cricket innings centres around batsmen who remain at the wicket facing a frequent turnover of bowlers until dismissed permanently. Cricket scorecards have two sections, one for batting and one for bowling, just as a baseball box score has sections for batting and pitching.

    The batting section of a cricket scorecard records events roughly in the order in which they happened (which I take it is what is meant by “this is essentially identical to what the scorer recorded as it happened”). (It is actually not quite that simple because you have two people batting who are changing ends of the pitch as they run and who can be dismissed independently of each other so that individual innings interlace and overlap in a slightly more complicated way than just coming one after another but essentially it is true.) The pitching analysis part of a baseball box score, unless I misunderstand, would likewise record what happened essentially in the order that it happened just as the batting section of a cricket scorecard does.

    But the bowling analysis doesn’t work like that. Who is bowling changes at the determination of the bowling team’s captain and bowlers can be rested and brought back so bowling appearances need to go into a grid (rows for bowlers, columns for overs) as plate appearances do for batters in baseball and the contributions of different bowlers, after the columns are compressed, can’t be read simply as if they corresponded to what happened in the order in which the game was played as with batting in baseball. (If you know how to read a full uncompressed scorecard you can unravel the information to work out exactly what happened and when in the bowling just as you can work out from a full uncompressed box score in baseball exactly what happened and when in the batting.)

    From this perspective, a batter’s plate appearance goes into the scoring like a bowler’s bowling spell and a batsman’s innings is like a pitcher’s complete pitching contribution. What would you call that in baseball parlance? A mound appearance?

  2. “This [calling the score the ‘score’ whether compressed or uncompressed] is still, so far as I know, the practice in cricket.”

    The cricket-watchers will correct me, but I can discern four levels of detail in reporting cricket scores:–

    A] The minimum is the “result” — something like “England won by 3 wickets” or “Kent lost by an innings and 23 runs” or (most likely) “match drawn”.

    B] The maximum is the “scorecard” with the full details recorded by the official scorer like this

    C] The shorter intermediate would give the totals (x runs for n players out) for each team for each innings

    D] The longer intermediate would supplement C by:-

    –(1a) each batsman’s total runs and how got out (c Smith b Jones)

    –(1b) extras

    –and (2) each bowler’s stats (n out for x runs from y balls)

    I think D is generally called the “scorecard”, ie the same as B. I don’t know what C is called.

  3. I think D is generally called the scorecard, ie the same as B. I don’t know what C is called.

    I would also call D the scorecard and I think I would call C the score.

  4. the “scorecard” with the full details recorded by the official scorer like this

    Thanks, that example was very enlightening.

    or (most likely) “match drawn”.

    Got a chuckle out of me!

  5. What would you call that in baseball parlance? A mound appearance?

    Sounds right.

  6. Dan Milton says:

    The other half of the phrase, “box”, is something I’ve wondered about, how it expanded from a small container made of wood (boxwood apparently) up to at least railroad car size (as well as being reduced to the two dimensions of a newspaper page).
    It did occur to me (probably based on OED citations I can’t access here) that box seats in the theater etc. might have been a sarcastic comment on their crampedness.

  7. January First-of-May says:

    how it expanded from a small container made of wood (boxwood apparently)

    …TIL. I (vaguely) knew that boxwood was a thing, but didn’t realize that was where “box” came from.

    It probably didn’t help that my mental etymological dictionary confused boxes (German Buchs) with beeches (German Buche), whence famously Russian буква “letter”.
    However, TIL (also) that the “box” root instead provided Russian пушка “cannon” (apparently because cannons looked kind of like boxes), which is even more awesome.

    [Wiktionary isn’t sure if “boxing”, as in the sport, is related.]

     
    And on the subject of newspaper reporting of sports: about two years ago, for an amateur research project (that ultimately didn’t work out as well as I expected), I looked through some early 20th century issues of a Canadian newspaper (forgot which one) for ice hockey results, and found to my surprise that the sporting column consistently got the headline “What is Doing in Sport”.

    This appears to be quite ungrammatical in my idiolect, even accounting for the peculiarities of headlinese in general, but as a non-native speaker of English I can’t exactly be sure how grammatical it actually is.
    Google [when I checked it, back then] found a bunch of results from late 19th and early 20th century newspapers and not much else.

    Anyone has an idea what the triangular heck is going on with this construction? Is it supposed to be grammatical, and in either case, what is it supposed to mean?

  8. PlasticPaddy says:

    @j FoM
    Doing = happening, so “what is happening in (the world of) Sport”

  9. “What is Doing in Sport”* means what is going on, what is happening. It has a somewhat antique feel but I don’t see anything ungrammatical about it.

    In my version of English, you can use “doings”** to mean the news, more or less. Tell me all about Aunt Mabel’s latest doings.

    *When I googled the phrase I was asked ‘do you mean what is doping in sport?”

    **not pronounced to rhyme with ‘boings’ although it would be funnier that way

  10. January First-of-May says:

    “What is Doing in Sport”* means what is going on, what is happening.

    That’s what I assumed from context.

    Doing = happening

    Yes, but at least to me, this only works as a noun equivalence, while the context clearly calls for a verbal form. I think it might be a transitivity thing.

  11. The origin of English box is unclear, although that it originates from the name of the tree is one possibility. Per the OED:

    Old English box neuter or masculine: it is not clear whether this was (1) another sense of box, the name of the tree, (2) an independent adoption of Latin buxum boxwood, in the sense of a thing made of box, or (3) an altered form of Latin pyxis (puxis , medieval Latin buxis) box: see PYX n.1 In favour of the latter compare Old High German buhsa (feminine) (Middle High German buhse , bühse, German büchse, Middle Dutch busse, bosse, Dutch bus, bos) on Germanic type *buksja-, < Latin pyxis or Greek πύξις box. As the latter was < πύξος box-wood, the Latin form of which was buxus, late and medieval Latin had many forms with initial b, as buxis, buxida, buxta, boxta, bosta, bossida (compare boist n.), from some of which the Germanic forms might well be derived.

    @January First-of-May: “What’s doing?” is a very ordinary colloquial way to ask “What is going on?” in English. However, because the phrase is so colloquial, “What is doing?”—without the contraction—sounds distinctly odd to me.

  12. J.W. Brewer says:

    The oddity of the singular (“in sport” rather than “in sports”) swamps any oddity of the “what is doing” phrasing — at least as far as my subjective native-ear ability to judge it. Yes, I’m aware that the singular usage is reputed to be common and maybe even standard amongst barbarous and unlettered foreigners, but it still leaves me incapable of assessing the grammaticality of the rest of the sentence, although I think I agree that “what’s doing” would sound more idiomatic.

  13. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jFoM
    Not sure why “doing” and “happening” are not verbal forms for you. For me the construction is present progressive. “Doing” can be replaced by “happening”. It is true that happening is per se impersonal whereas doing usually has a personal agent. German uses a reflexive i.e was tut sich…in a similar construction. Maybe this would seem more logical to you?

  14. I guess oldtime “what is doing in sport” corresponds to current “what is being done in sport”, which is grammatical if not exactly usual. The progressive passive was not idiomatic English until the late 18C and condemned by purists throughout the 19C. Here’s ‘The Golden Bough’ (1890):

    Among the Ba-Pedi and Ba-Thonga tribes of South Africa, when the site of a new village has been chosen and the houses are building, all the married people are forbidden to have conjugal relations with each other.

    We still say “nothing doing”. Another vestige is something is “missing” when what we mean is that it is “being missed”. (Also “wanting”, though dated.)

    Singular “sport” is standard British and may be returning to the US

  15. A round of applause for Ian Preston’s explanation of cricket-vs-baseball scoring.

    (most likely) “match drawn”
    For when the One Great Scorer comes
    To mark against your name,
    He writes – not that you won or lost –
    But HOW you played the Game.

    In the 1980s the New York Times had a weekly column What’s Doing in…? …Tarrytown or Danbury, Conn., whatever suburb of the city, with info about commuting times, shopping, schools and various things that might be of interest to people reading its Sunday Real Estate section. I found a later one here, but it’s on travel. I always found it a rather sweet but bonkers phrase that might have come straight out of Monty Python. And 40 yrs ago in grad school there was a guy who regularly would look at what I was busy drawing and ask “Whatcha doin’?” in a jokey sort of way; it then required an explanation from me (and so drove me crazy).

    confused boxes (German Buchs) with beeches (German Buche)
    I have some beech hedges but the German gewöhnlicher Buchsbaum is what’s called boxwood in English, and usually just ‘box’ (no article) in England. It looks like privet, but it’s better for topiary and commonly used in medieval ornamental parterres and that kind of thing. Buxus sempervirens.

  16. January First-of-May says:

    I guess oldtime “what is doing in sport” corresponds to current “what is being done in sport”, which is grammatical if not exactly usual.

    Most likely, though in modern English this phrasing would normally have a slightly different connotation (“what is being changed”, essentially).
    My best guess at how I would have phrased the presumable intended meaning idiomatically is “what’s going on in sport”.

    (I’m ignoring the question of “sport” vs. “sports” for now, though I would normally use the latter in such a generic context, and I’m fairly sure that the reports I found used the former. For what it’s worth, Google tells me that the newspaper in question was the Winnipeg Tribune.)

  17. However, TIL (also) that the “box” root instead provided Russian пушка “cannon” (apparently because cannons looked kind of like boxes)

    Like a box, or like a can?

    It would not surprise me if those loading cannon sardonically called their activity something like the Slavic equivalent of “putting a penny in the pushka”.

    Hm, Russian WikiP says the term is from Czech, puška, but Czech WikiP says they are kanón, with no mention of puška. Weird.

  18. He writes – not that you won or lost –
    But HOW you played the Game.

    This sentiment is the foundation of a hallowed English tradition that it is better to lose a sporting contest in a graceful and dignified manner than to commit the grievous sins of making an effort or, even worse, trying to win.

  19. Hm, Russian WikiP says the term is from Czech, puška, but Czech WikiP says they are kanón, with no mention puška. Weird.
    Modern Czech puška means “rifle”, but if I read the WP article on that word correctly (under “Historický význam slova”), it could mean any kind of gun in Old Czech, including cannons.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Amazingly, I had never encountered (medio)passive doing. I never noticed the oddity of missing because fehlend (“absent”, “lacking”) is one of the few present participles that are actually common in Standard German.

    puška

    Doesn’t that mean “gun”?

    (At least three such onomatopoetic words mean “gun” in German.)

  21. I get the impression that the progressive passive was fairly common in 19th-century American English, at least in letters written in New England. I think I’ve seen it most often with build, as in “A new house is building.” But the form survives in at least two contemporary American idioms: “What’s cooking?” (i.e., “What’s being cooked?”) and “Now showing / now playing” atop the signs outside movie theaters. About substitutes for the latter, “Now being shown” would be idiomatic, but I should think not “Now being played.” There, the verb play seems to be a survival of an old sense of “perform,” as in “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players.”

    Oh, and David L., Grantland Rice, coiner of the phrase “HOW you played the game,” was an American.

  22. J.W. Brewer says:

    If only there were some idiomatic construction using the progressive participle that Frazer could have employed to avoid the clunky feeling of “to have conjugal relations with each other”!

  23. One more pair of progressive passives, this one British and from the twentieth century:

    W. E. May’s article “The Magnetism of Ships,” undated online at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/268173801.pdf but contextually post-World War II, contains at least two examples: “During all the time that the ship is building” on p. 92 and “This ship lay close to the Queen Mary while fitting out” on p. 95. May is identified as a commander in the Royal Navy.

  24. @Jonathan Morse: My impression is that “fitting out” has to take that form, if the “out” comes last. I don’t feel that one can say, ?”This ship lay close to the Queen Mary while being fitted out,” but, “… while being outfitted,” seems fine.

    Google Ngrams indicates that “being fitted out” does occur. However, when I tried quantitative comparisons of the rates for different constructions, there were some obvious artifacts in the appearances of the plots, so I’m not sure one can draw any stronger conclusions.

  25. Brett, fitting out isn’t quite the same as outfitting. The OED says it’s “Obsolete exc. Nautical or transferred from that use,” and Wikipedia says it refers to building, not just equipping: “the process in shipbuilding that follows the float-out/launching of a vessel and precedes sea trials. It is the period when all the remaining construction of the ship is completed and readied for delivery to her owners.”

    On the other hand, Wikipedia also accepts “outfitting” as a synonym for “fitting out,” so maybe this is the time to transmit a plea for clarification from any seadogs on the list. But to your point about putting the “out” last, the root form “fit out” is a phrasal verb like “wake up ” or “look in on,” with a phrasal verb’s constrained word order. You can’t say, “The cat, out whom I put,” and your song about that is

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJfgHSUlr-s

  26. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jm
    Your cat is a “who” and not a “which”. Do you extend this to the mice whom she catches?

  27. PP, yes! At least when I’m looking through a lens, I’m too dumbfounded to make species distinctions. This one is a he, in any case. You can tell from the long, sturdy antennae, the better to detect pheromones with.

    https://jonathanmorse.blog/2020/08/12/h-rumbold-wonders-whether-miss-douce-or-miss-kennedy-would-like-to-meet-his-client/

    On the other hand, when normal people see the evidence of what I’ve seen, they normally cry, “Ew! I hate it!”

  28. this is the time to transmit a plea for clarification from any seadogs

    An architect (me) writes: I designed bits of cruise ships (mostly the public areas) for four years. I hadn’t realised ‘fitting out’ isn’t used by everyone. It’s a common expression in cruise ship building – which doesn’t take place in any English-speaking country, to my knowledge, but the contract language is always English* – and you certainly couldn’t replace ‘fitting out’ with ‘outfitting’, Jonathan Morse. Fitting out is done by local subcontractors and their own subs, very little of it by the yard itself.

    *Several owners are American, RCCL, Carnival & Disney being the biggest and one or two are British (eg Seabourn), but everything is in English regardless.

    Fitting out is also a common contractual expression in architecture. I don’t vouch for this site, it’s the first one I googled, but you get the general idea.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    I always took “what’s cooking” as intransitive, like “the soup is boiling”, and “now showing/playing” as “we are showing/playing”…

    …am I equating cook and boil again? Kochen covers both in German, because sieden “boil, seethe” is purely literary.

  30. Many have researched baseball history; here a comment from a rookie in the field. It’s true that pitchers were often spoken of as “in the box” and such. And “box” was indeed in the early 1890s the last word before “Score:” and then followed what is eventually called the box score. But sometimes the box *is* drawn by column dividers and top and bottom lines. Here’s an example, with the line before the box being only the two words “box. Score:”
    Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago), May 8, 1890, page 2, col. 3 [America’s Historical Newspapers, Readex]
    So it is at least possible that the virtual collocation “box. Score” *and* the drawn box both contributed to the name “box score.”

  31. I suppose there is no bright line between (a) those historical uses of the active progressive which would now be expressed as a passive progressive and (b) the broader category of middle-voice or syntactic alternation or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

    The general case of (b) is what permitted (a) to fill the syntactic gap until the anglosphere was ready for the active progressive that is being known and loved by us.

  32. David M., a distinction, for what it’s worth.

    Among local announcements on public radio I think I’ve heard items like, “Now playing at the community theater is The Man Who Came to Dinner.” At any rate, that construction does seem to be idiomatic. On the other hand, “In answer to your question, what’s cooking is spaghetti” isn’t.

    One more distinction there might have to do with slotting the term “cooking” into a large or small frame of reference. In a big general frame, “What’s cooking?” communicates primarily something like “What are we having for dinner?” and refers not just to cooking but to the complex social experience of eating. That’s why the phrase can also generalize to the non-culinary and take on the meaning of “What’s going on?” or “What progress are you making?” But in a restricted frame, “What’s cooking in this pot?” is a specific question about cookery, only, and demands a specific culinary answer.

  33. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    A propos of not very much, I once had fun with a flat inventory which included ‘1 glass missing bowl’. We found two or three bowls, none of which seemed to be missing…

    (We did eventually work out what it meant, but I think a few days later!)

  34. I always took “what’s cooking” as intransitive, like “the soup is boiling”,

    Watcha got cookin’?

    “what’s cookin'” can include all those metaphorical uses JM mentions; whereas “what’s boiling” can only be asking about something on the stove boiling — probably with a suggestion it’s malodorous or is steaming the place up or should be not boiling but simmering.

  35. It wasn’t a Pyrex mixing glass bowl [sic] £9.49, Jen?

  36. Mr Yagoda

    https://notoneoffbritishisms.com/2020/09/04/sport-proceeds-apace/

    thinks singular sport is infiltrating the US.

  37. Unless I’ve got him mixed up I think Picky may have been an early name chosen eleven or so years ago by Empty, along with pnafahthi and a couple more.

  38. Definitely not.

  39. “What is Doing in Sport(s)” strikes me as semi-grammatical. It’s not a construction that would be used in ordinary English varieties I’m familiar with, nor a familiar headline construction. But it feels like something that might be grammatical in some varieties. I take the word choice to be playful. Not contemporary standard English, but not entirely ungrammatical.

    For me “is/are doing” needs a doer and an object (what’s done). Bob is doing the dishes. The dishes are doing sounds, not bluntly ungrammatical, but definitely non-standard. Leaving out the doer requires the passive, “the dishes are being done”.

    “Happening” puts the “what’s done” as the subject, so “what’s happening in sports” is not actually grammatically parallel to “what’s doing in sports”, I would say. “what’s happening in sports” an active construction, whereas “what’s doing in sports” is a sort of passive that leaves out the subject.

    Regarding sport vs. sports, I’m amused by the notion of the British as “barbarous and unlettered foreigners” with regards to their English usage.

  40. Huh. I’ll have to think again.

  41. Mollymooly, ever feel like you know you’re making sounds but nobody’s hearing them? Not a linguist, but from what I’ve read, you’ve probably nailed it.

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