Yet it was actually Ryan’s singular year on the beat for the Red Sox that started a personal tradition that has become his 15th book, the new “In Scoring Position: 40 Years of a Baseball Love Affair.”
“I was put on the beat for the Red Sox in 1977. I was very excited about it,” Ryan said. “I had covered basketball for seven years and loved it, but my heart was always first in baseball and there was a great opportunity. And so I was very excited and started counting the points religiously.
Scoring baseball in a notebook is a practice that dates back to the 19th century. Over the decades, it became a popular way for analysts or more serious fans to follow the game. For Ryan, it became an almost unbroken habit.
“I can honestly say that maybe with one or two exceptions – one I know of was a Cape Cod League game, which I regretted not scoring – that I kept score in every game. baseball I’ve attended at every level since the start of the ’77 season,” he said.
Ryan’s new book is inspired by over 1,500 games spanning 44 years compiled into personal scorecards. Written with fellow writer and baseball researcher Bill Chuck, it spans decades of the game’s history, seen through the lens of Ryan’s logbook from that day forward.
As you might expect, most of the scores in the box are Red Sox-related. But the original scorecards also include many other major league games, Olympic softball and baseball, and a college baseball game in 1984 that Ryan casually attended while taking a break to cover the conference finals of the NBA West (it was played between North Carolina and Arizona State, and included a then-promising Sun Devils outfielder named Barry Bonds).
The writing process, normally an intense and demanding experience even for a veteran of Ryan’s experience, was easier this time around.
“It was pure fun,” Ryan said. “It was easy to write. The only difficult part was deciding who would make the cut.
Only a few of the sheet music from the box made it into the book, but each is accompanied by fascinating personal anecdotes.
Ryan has had several players sign his scorecards over the years, including Reggie Jackson (“Reggie and I had a good relationship for some weird reason”) and former White Sox pitcher Joe Cowley, whom Ryan watched pitch a no-hitter against the Angels in September 1986.
“He threw the ugliest no-hitter you’ve ever seen,” Ryan said, noting that Cowley walked seven times and threw the same number of strikes as balls, even allowing an unearned run on a sacrifice fly. hit by Jackson. Still, Ryan got Cowley to sign the logbook. The surprising twist: Cowley, then 28, failed to win again in 1986 and went 0-4 in 1987 before being released by the Phillies and never pitching again.
“So it turns out,” Ryan said, “that was the last game he ever won in the major leagues.”
Ryan acknowledged that the book may not be “for casual fans”.
“It’s a niche book if there ever was one, I’ll be honest about that,” he said. But with each section, detail-oriented readers will find the pages of baseball history brought to life through Ryan’s eyes and scoring notations.
“It keeps you in the game,” Ryan said. And, as he noted in the book’s introduction, “because it’s fun.” That’s why.”