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Baseball Scorecards Tell the Story

Earlier this baseball season, Ole Miss tied a game on a dropped fly ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, which was a case of deja vu for Ole Miss fan Curtis Wilkie, who remembered the same thing happening in a game seven years earlier.

What helped him remember? He always keeps score at baseball games, whether it is the major leagues or Ole Miss, as he shows scorecards piled up in his office in Farley Hall on campus.

"I remember and other people there remembered a previous game, and I was pretty sure it was a Friday night game against Georgia, but I couldn't remember which year," Wilkie said. "I got the media guide and looked up previous series we played against Georgia and found it immediately. I remembered we won the game, so I was able to pull the scorebook for that year out and flip to it, and it was right there. It's fun to be able to do that."

Every fan that keeps a scorebook has a story. 

Wilkie has been keeping score since he was 10, and by the time he was in the sixth or seventh grade he was the official scorekeeper for Summit High School in Summit, Miss.

"It's something not a lot of people do, but I have found it as a good way to keep up with the game," Wilkie said. "If I go to major league games, I will generally buy a scorecard and keep score. Since I was in high school, I don't think I have done it as systematically as I do now with the Ole Miss team. I keep score of every game I go to and I have my own scorebook that I make."

Another resident scorekeeper is Juanita Skinner, originally from Baldwyn, Miss., who now lives in Oxford. She went to Ole Miss in the late '50's and early '60's, and then started keeping score for the junior high baseball team when she was a teacher and counselor for 39-plus years at Colonial Junior High and Overton High School in Memphis.

"Up here, I was keeping it just on a plain piece of paper, and Coach Bianco's father, Ron, sat at the table and we all talked, and he said, 'You need a real scorebook,' " Skinner said. "He was the one that got me back keeping the score in an official scorebook about three years ago. I did it because I concentrated on the game. Not everybody is here for the ball game; a lot of people are here to socialize. As long as I'm keeping score, I'm concentrating on the ball game, and that's why I got started doing it."

Behind home plate, there is a scattering of fans keeping score. There's David Robinson, who's been an Ole Miss baseball season-ticket holder since Pat Harrison was coach in the late '90's. 

Like so many others, it helps him stay focused on the game. When he sees the batter step to the plate, he know what they did in their previous at-bats, and he keeps a pitch count, so he can tell when the pitcher is going to start tiring out. However, he had a rather unique start to his scorekeeping.

"The honest truth is I wound up coaching my son's little league teams, and I would bring the book here and keep the book here to teach myself how to keep up with keeping a book for his game," Robinson said. "A college baseball game can last four hours, but if you're keeping a scorebook, it feels like it was only an hour and a half."

A couple of rows up from Robinson, behind home plate and right below the press box, you can find Shannon Lovejoy keeping score. Similar to Wilkie, she's been keeping a book since she was 9 when her father took her to a California Angels game and taught her how. Since then she has done it for every game she has gone to and has been coming to Ole Miss baseball games since the '80's.

"You can look at a complete scorecard and you can recreate the game," Lovejoy said. "That's pretty cool. I also watch the pitcher and keep the pitch count. I have people who text me all through the game to see what the pitch count is. The people who are season-ticket holders know I'm totally focused in on the game, so they don't engage me in a lot of conversation during a game."

And then there's Don Sheffield, who everyone calls "coach," who was a football manager at Ole Miss from 1958-62 before getting into coaching, which he did for about 10 years in northeast Mississippi. 

He remembers being asked in the summer of 1963 to coach a community baseball team of pee-wees and junior players in Dorsey, Miss., where he grew up, and he coached them to a championship, after which he went back to school to finish up his degree in physical education, so he could teach and coach.

"All during the time I was coaching, you had your own scorebook for your team, so I got accustomed to keeping score," Sheffield said. "It keeps me into the game. If I'm sitting here watching the game and I get to talking to somebody I lose what's happening in the game, but if I'm keeping score, I'm mentally into the game and I know what's happening. Another reason for doing it is I have a small Ole Miss message board, and so, if I want to make a comment about the baseball game, I want accuracy in what I say about the game."

Whether it's keeping up with the game, remembering past games or settling arguments and debating points, every fan and every scorecard has a story. You just have to find them.

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