Imagine, if you will, this kind of baseball game:
The home team is coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, trailing by four runs, but none of the fans is headed for the parking lot. Rather, there’s a sense of anticipation. Hey, four runs aren’t so many in a game in which a run is tallied every time a player reaches a base.
It’a system I call Total Baseball (since total bases are what count most), and it could revolutionize our National Pastime.
There’s nothing complicated about it: Every time a runner reaches a base — be it first, second, third or home — he scores a run. A single or walk with no one aboard counts for one run. A leadoff double counts for two runs. A single that moves a runner from first to third would count for three runs. And a grand-slam homer would count for 10 runs, not just four — and that doesn’t include the scores tallied by the players who were on base before the home run was hit.
Getting back to the ninth inning in that hypothetical game I’ve asked you to imagine, it might play out something like this:
The first batter grounds out. The next batter singles to left. There’s one run. The third batter of the inning hits what looks like a double-play ball to short but beats the second baseman’s relay throw to first. There’s another run. Two outs, and the home team is behind by two runs. The next batter is hit by a pitch — and the game is tied. The next batter walks, and the home team wins by three runs.
Seven runs were scored in the inning on just one hit, a measly single. What’s more important is that the whole affair was highly exciting, though there were no great plays, no home runs, no disputed umpire calls, nothing especially spectacular. What made it fun was the system of scoring.
Of course, Total Baseball would never be adopted in the Major Leagues, where records and history are sacrosanct. But records don’t mean as much at any other level of baseball. Hardly anyone knows or cares about records in the Pacific Coast League, for example. Hence, this new system of scoring could work wonders in the minor leagues or in interscholastic or amateur ball without unduly messing up any hallowed history. It might also lend itself to fantasy baseball.
Total Baseball would heighten fan interest and prompt players, coaches and managers alike to keep their heads in the game at moments that otherwise might allow one’s mind to wander, if only briefly.
It would lend more significance to walks, sacrifice bunts, stolen bases and errors. It would improve concentration on the fundamentals of the sport. It would make every pitch, every swing of the bat and every fielding play potentially more important.
And if Total Baseball were to catch on, yours truly would earn his own little place in the history of this greatest of all sports.
Granted, it wouldn’t put me on a par with Albert Goodwill Spalding, for example. But my claim to baseball immortality would, at least in one sense, have a bit more legitimacy than Spalding’s. He’s the guy who almost single-handedly created the ridiculous myth that baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday. There’s no good evidence that Doubleday ever even saw a baseball game, let alone invented the sport.
Total Baseball is entirely my creation — at least as far as I know. But I won’t, and probably can’t, copyright it or patent it. It’s free for anyone to use.
If you like it, pass it along. Better yet, try it with your team or in your league, if only informally.
FOOTNOTE: Al Spalding hailed from my own neck of the woods. He was born in Byron, Illinois, and grew up in Rockford. Beyond his baseball exploits, he gained enduring fame as the founder of a sporting goods empire.