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Home » HistoryJanuary 2007 » Settling the Score

Settling the Score

Mondays are typically a day to throw off the weekend torpor in preparation for the work week tedium. But for baseball fans near the Hub, the third Monday of January is an opportunity not only to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. but also to attend the Boston Chapter of the Society of American Baseball’s regional meeting.

A diverse group of speakers entertained and informed at the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge. From the musty reaches of history to current minor leaguers reaching for the brass ring, all angles of baseball were covered.

This is the first in a series summarizing the presentations from this SABR gathering. The next column will feature sports psychology consultant Bob Tewksbury.

Chaz Scoggins
“I scored a lot more games than [Terry Francona] ever played in the major leagues.”

When you first hear Scoggins’s resonant voice, you wonder why he is a writer rather than a broadcaster. Rather than meticulously noting the progress and outcome of each play, you can almost hear him through your radio mellifluously recounting the sequence of events with unequaled accuracy. Then you learn of his rigorous process for giving life to Game of My Life, however, you are glad he chose to be a scribe.

Sports Publishing has a formula for their book series: twenty-odd players covered in 50,000 to 60,000 words. And, since the deal came on the heels of 2004, they requested two or three players from that mythic team to be chronicled in Scoggins’s book.

You would think that Scoggins, the official scorer for the Red Sox, a stickler to the rules and unflinching arbiter of the truth of the field would abide by the letter to the terms set forth in the contract.

Instead he became an unlikely maverick. As monumental as the first Red Sox championship in 86 years was, Scoggins found it highly presumptuous that these players would not go on to do something more magnificent later in their careers. He devised his own rule that he would only interview men whose playing days were over.

Scoggins sought out the oldest of the living Red Sox players first to make sure he got the stories directly from the source. Although in general the memories of the players were excellent, he found that the athletes appreciated it when he winnowed down the games to a select few, particularly for the hitters. He would scour box scores to furnish his subjects with an array of games most exemplary. Out of 20 players, eight selected the games he predicted, which is outstanding in batting average terms and exceptional in terms of on-base percentage.

Other books in the “Game of My Life” narrowly cling to the preordained format, but Scoggins found the word limit constraining. He believed it would be an injustice to allot just 2,000 words per player. When he crafted a game summary and biographical sketch of a player, he found that he had tipped the scale to 80,000 words for 20 players, or 4,000 words per life. He managed to whittle down the manuscript to 72,000.

The editor loved it. Not a word was cut.

Not everyone loves what Scoggins does, however. Players on both sides of the ball have petitioned him to have errors turned into hits or vice versa, more so in seasons where the pennant is out of sight and individual accolades are all one can hope for. The last few years the field manager has been especially persistent with his entreaties to alter calls to favor the home team.

Sometimes a prophet is not accepted in his own land.

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