It may come as a surprise, but Bob Ryan’s greatest sporting love was (and remains) baseball, not basketball.
“Baseball, and I believe it, is the best game,” Ryan said in a recent interview.
The longtime sportswriter – who officially retired as boston globe columnist in 2012 but remains very active – has been known for decades of Celtics coverage. He started on the beat for the Celtics in 1969 and wrote seven books on basketball.
Yet it was actually Ryan’s singular year on the beat for the Red Sox that started a personal tradition that has now 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 recalled. “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.
Keeping baseball scores 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 explained.
In total, Ryan’s new book draws on more than 1,500 games spanning 44 years compiled in his personal score books. Co-authored 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 MLB, Olympic softball and baseball games, and a 1984 college baseball game that Ryan casually attended while taking a break to cover the NBA Western Finals. Conferences (it was played between North Carolina and Arizona State, and included a then-promising 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 of putting the book together. “It was easy to write. The only difficult part was deciding who would make the cut.
Only a few of the scores in the box have made it from his notebook to the newly published book, but each is accompanied by fascinating personal anecdotes.
Ryan has had several players sign his logbook 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 saw throwing a no-hitter while watching future Red Sox playoff opponent the Angels in September 1986.
“He threw the ugliest no-hitter you’ve ever seen,” Ryan recalled, noting that Cowley walked seven batters and threw the same number of strikes as balls, even allowing an (undeserved) run on a fly. sacrifice hit by Jackson. Still, Ryan had Cowley sign the scorecard. 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 noted, “that was the last game he ever won in the major leagues.”
Ryan admitted the book may not be “for casual fans”.
“It’s a niche book, there never was one, I’ll be honest about that,” he acknowledged. But with each section, detail-oriented readers will find the pages of baseball history brought to life through the eyes (and notations) of Ryan’s score.
“It keeps you in the game,” Ryan said of why he always keeps score. And, as he noted in the introduction to the book. “Because it’s funny. That’s why.”
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