A little while back, I was asked why we use the word K to denote a strikeout on a baseball scorecard. Of course I did what everyone would do I googled it. Found out about Henry Chadwick, a writer, had a lot to do with it. I gave the answer to the one asking the question then promptly forgot about it. Well a month or so later there I was, sitting in the Coliseum, watching the Oakland Athletics execute a Triple Play(OH YEA BABY) and in front of me there was a woman keeping score. I looked down to see how she would score it. As I peeked down at her box score, I remembered Henry. I remembered Henry fondly. Without him…baseball would be meaningless to so many fans. Here is why:
On October 5, 1824, in Exeter England, Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick brought into this world a healthy baby boy. That baby boy, whom they name named Henry, would grow up to become a writer, a historian, a statistician and to be called the Father of Baseball. I know. I know. Doubleday has been also named Father of Baseball, mostly due to the efforts of Spaulding whom Chadwick was friends with. As Chadwick said (regarding Spaulding’s championing of Doubleday) “He means well, he just don’t know.”
Mr. Chadwick packed up the his family and moved to Brooklyn in 1836 where Henry became an avid layer of ball games such as rounders and cricket. As he grew, he began covering cricket games for the local newspapers and in 1856 he went to New york to cover a cricket games. He came across a baseball game, in fact it was a game between New York’s Eagle and Gotham clubs. He was hooked.
While never a true player himself he began to work on promoting Baseball. As a reporter ,In 1857 he focused his attention on baseball after joining the New York Clipper, and was also soon hired by other New York papers including the Sunday Mercury.
Chadwick loved statics and he is the one who put together the framework for todays baseball stats. And the box score. Chadwick edited The Beadle Baseball Player, the first baseball guide on public sale, as well as the Spalding and Reach annual guides. A editor for these publications he not only promoted the game but also had a huge influence on the beginnings of sports journalism.. His service on baseball rules committees gave him the opportunity to shape the game itself.
In the 1861 Beadle guide, Chadwick created the first baseball database by listing the totals of games played, outs, runs, home runs, and strikeouts for hitters on prominent clubs, He wanted to show that there was numerical evidence to prove which players helped or harmed a team. Much like we do today. How many times have there been talk of who was good or not with the end all of the argument being looking it up,, ERA’s RBIs etc.
In 1867 he accompanied the National BaseBall Club of Washington D.C. on their inaugural national tour, as their official scorer, and in 1874 organized a similar tour of England, which included games of both baseball and cricket. He also wrote extensively against the detrimental effects on the game of both alcohol and gambling.(the 1800s version of steroids?)
But what Chadwick did for the game that was the best thing ever was the box score (which he got from the cricket scorecard) for reporting game events. The first box score was a grid with nine rows for players and nine columns for innings. The original box scores also created the often puzzling abbreviation for strikeout as “K” – “K” being the last letter of “struck” in “struck out.” The box score has changed little since the earliest of ones designed by Chadwick. He is also credited with devising such statistical measures as batting average and earned run average. Ironically, ERA originated not in the goal of measuring a pitcher’s worth but to differentiate between runs caused by batting skill (hits) and lack of fielding skill (errors).
Henry gave a lot to the game of baseball and, in part, due to his efforts, baseball became the game we know now. Henry Chadwick is also the only writer to have been inducted into the baseball Hall of fame. We all owe a big thank you to Henry everytime we look up a players stats to end an argument about who is the better player.