Here’s a tip: Keep an eye out for agate, because when you see agate it will be a sign of returning vitality.
Agate is a font, the little type that is used for statistical info. It’s about the smallest type you can put on a page that somebody can actually read. When it comes to sports, there’s a lot of that — you could say it makes the sports world go ‘round — so little type is needed to help cram all that into a sports page.
You haven’t seen agate on the sports pages, pretty much since the coronavirus outbreak. That’s thanks to a simple equation: No games = no agate.
Pretty much. There are non-game concerns that you can cram onto a page with agate, like transactions and the injured reserve list, but games are really what makes the agate sparkle. If you think sparkle is the wrong word, well, maybe, but a good box score is magic — and magic sparkles, right?
How come? Because with a box score and a little imagination you can recreate a game in your mind. That’s kind of a lost art now, or an art that’s going out of fashion, because today’s incessantly delivered onslaught of information leaves little to the imagination.
That’s too bad, I think. Once I spent a summer overseas at a time before they’d invented the internet and cable television and had to rely on the box scores printed, in agate, in the International Herald Tribune. The box score tells you who scored and when, and gives other information you can use to build the game in your brain.
You can imagine how significant building a game in your imagination was before Philo Farnsworth came up with his cathode ray tube.
I have to say I miss the baseball season, and would take a return pretty much any way they can work it out. For me, baseball fires the imagination like no other sport. It’s significant that baseball was allowed, you could say encouraged, to continue during the Second World War. Most people know about that, but it was also true in World War I. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918 it was not front-page news. That was left for headlines like “Retreating Huns Prepared to Leave Wholesale Destruction in Their Wake.”
Other aspects seem more familiar. The sixth and final game of the series that year almost didn’t take place because of an argument over gate receipts and revenue sharing.
There is a long tradition when it comes to baseball of helping fans who can’t make it to games. In 1923, the Meriden Record introduced the “Playograph,” which was a mechanical scoreboard capable of providing play-by-play coverage of the World Series between the New York Giants and the Yankees.
The Playograph was set up in front of the newspaper’s Crown Street building and people would gather to watch as the green scoreboard displayed batting lineups, innings, strikes and balls, and a representation of the baseball diamond.
Somebody on the newspaper staff had to operate the scoreboard. As the play-by-play came over the Associated Press telegraph, this person would move the ball accordingly. Viewers could follow the movement of the players around the bases, the calls by the umps, and the path of the ball on its way to the plate.
This was very popular. As the newspaper reported, over the six-game series 10,000 people came to downtown Meriden to watch the games unfold.
The advance of technology eclipsed this fun, as in the advent of radio. But we still have agate.
Keep an eye out for it. It will be a good sign.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.