SABR 42: Official Scorers Panel

On Thursday, June 28, 2012, our panel of official scorers for major league teams discussed rules and scoring issues that come up during the course of a game, including appeals, reversed calls and other disputes. Speakers included Stew Thornley and Gregg Wong, official scorers for the Minnesota Twins, and David Vincent, official scorer for the Washington Nationals. The panel was moderated by Kevin Hennessy.

David Vincent, Gregg Wong, Stew ThornleyHere are some highlights:

On the pressure of making scoring decisions

  • Thornley: “I think it needs to be accepted … that there are going to be calls that could go either way, and you have very qualified people who are going to have different opinions on it. Those are the ’50/50s’, we call them, and those are the calls we get paid to make. … It’s difficult when you do make the call, because the pressure is a lot different (at the major league level). When I first started doing Twins games, I had a renewed respect for anyone who does anything for real and not from the armchair, and I say that as someone who’s been an armchair person like all of us. Official scoring, umpiring, managing, general managing: There is a difference between the armchair and the hot seat.”
  • Wong: “I have people who tell me all the time, ‘Oh, you gotta be making some calls in favor of the Twins because you work for the Twins.’ No, we work for Major League Baseball. We do not work for an individual team. … We’re supposed to be objective.” 
  • Vincent: “You go to a big league press box and a lot of people could make 80 percent of the calls. We’re hired for that last 20 percent.”

On odd plays

  • Vincent: “No matter how carefully a lawyer writes the rulebook, you can’t really cover what happens on the field. Not all of it. … In 2006, I had a play with runners on first and third, and the batter struck out. Runner was going with the pitch. And the play went 2-4-2-5-3-6-5. Everyone in the infield except the pitcher touched the ball. How do you keep up with that while it’s going on? My trick is saying it out loud while it happened. And then I turn to the guy next to me and ask, ‘What the hell did I just say?'” … Between the majors and minors, I’ve had two games fogged out, I’ve had sprinkler delays, I’ve had light failures. But my favorite is a helicopter delay. That actually happened.”

On fewer fielding errors being called today

  • Thornley: “In the 1960s, there were about 1.75 errors per game between the two teams, and now it’s about 1.25. So we’ve got about a half an error per game less than there was when I was a kid. And the question is why. Is it better fielding? … I think the players are better. I think they have more accurate arms. … I’m not defensive about it, but the overriding opinion of everyone we talk to is that we’re softer, that official scorers are giving hits on plays that would have been errors 40 years ago. But I’m not necessarily ready to accept that as being the case.”
  • Wong: “They did change the wording of the rulebook several years ago to the point where if there’s any doubt at all, you favor the hitter. … And then there’s instant replay. Everyone’s watching the replay from multiple angles to see what you happened.”

Listen to the audio of the SABR 42 Official Scorers Panel below:

To download the MP3 file, click here (appx. 1 hour, 14 minutes; 35 MB)

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Originally published: July 6, 2012. Last Updated: July 27, 2020.