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Opinion: Scorecards keep record of games, and memories

This is a general view of Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play.
Harry How
/
Getty Images
This is a general view of Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play.

I'm a baseball fan.
And at the game, I'm one of those guys with a pencil in one hand.
Scorecard in the other.
I record everything.
Batter after batter.
In tiny writing.
In the appropriate box on my scoresheet.

But that's not all I put down on the page.
I mean, the story of the day doesn't just happen on the field.

My scorecard from July 6, 2012, tells me I was there with two of my brothers-in-law.
Detroit hosting Kansas City.
It was hot — 94 degrees at game time.
Tigers rookie Drew Smyly threw 10 strikeouts.
Oh, and it was Country Music Night.
Okay.

In August of 2006, in Chicago, the White Sox topped that.
It was Elvis Night, with Elvis impersonators skydiving onto the field.
My youngest daughter has never enjoyed a ball game more.

April 28 of '07.
The Twins at Detroit, with friends who had great seats near third base.
It was sunny but cool.
The Tigers lost big.
But we still came out ahead thanks to pre-game visits to the Lafayette Coney Island and to the amazing Diego Rivera murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
It's all written down next to the hits, runs and errors.

I do have a favorite old scorecard.
An unremarkable game on a Sunday in May of '04.
Baltimore at Detroit.
I was with my wife, my 11-year-old daughter and my mom.
Here's what happened that day.
The Orioles won.
My wife spilled her slurpee onto her lap. A minor crisis.
On a hot dog run, my daughter and I decided to race back up the cement steps.
She tripped. Banged her knee.
"OUCH," the scorecard proclaims in all caps.
Here's what's not on the card.
This was the last game I would ever attend with my mom.
We lost her the following year.

The game started at 1:05.
It ended at 4:17 p.m.
That scorecard keeps hold of details from those three hours with my mom that otherwise might have faded, or jumbled in my mind with other games in other years.

There's one more ritual I should mention.
At game's end we all sign the scorecard.
To bear witness to the game, and everything else.

See you at the ballpark.

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You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.