As far back as I can remember, when baseball scores were reported in text they showed the visiting team on top and the home team on bottom (if ‘up and down’). If reportedd side-by-side the visiting team was on the left.
Lately here in the Boston MA area I’ve been seeing the winning team score reported on top regardless of home/visitor. I don’t know how long they’ve been doing it, and for that matter I’m not even sure they do it all the time. Mostly I am thinking of the Boston Globe.
I think www.mlb.com was sticking to the visitor-on-left side-by-side style, at least during regular season play.
Is this going on anywhere else? Maybe its always been that way? If not, how or why did this get started?
Baseball box scores (which developed out of cricket traditions) are read from top to bottom, left to right. Because the home team always bats last, they are the “bottom” team. Because baseball was the first sport to gain widespread attention in the US, aspects of the baseball box score like putting the home team at the “bottom” carried over to games like (American) football, basketball, and hockey.
That would go back an extraordinary length of time, probably before the box score itself was invented. Never in the history of organized baseball, that I can find, has the home tam not batted last.
I’d agree with fiddlesticks in that the current convention is probably just the logical outcome of the home team batting last, and it does seem to have carried over to other sports, even though there’s no reason for it. Baseball is the oldest of pro team sports in North America and so a lot of its conventions were adopted in the other sports - All-Star games, Halls of Fame, even a lot of team names. For a long time other sports also conformed to baseball’s tradition of home whites/visiting other colours, though the other sports have started getting away from that recently.
Peter Morris deals with this issue in his book *A Game of Inches, Volume 1: The Stories Behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball: The Game on the Field *. Entry 1.31 Home Team Last traces the history of which team bats last.
Up until the 1870s, according to Morris, the system was one in which the issue was decided by a coin toss, with the winner usually choosing to bat last. Presumably, this meant that, on occasions where the visiting team won the toss, the home team would not get to have the last at-bats of the game.
Morris goes on to say that the switch to “less elastic balls” led many captains to choose to bat first in the 1870s, because it would allow them to hit while the ball was still new and bouncy.
Again, the reason offered for this 1880s trend of bating first was to get first crack at the new ball. Morris traces the further evolution of this issue, noting that:
Morris notes that new rules about ending the game after four and a half innings (in the event of rain, etc.) acted as incentive to bast second. He finishes the section:
There is no standard format for how scores are reported. In general, sports scores are reported listing the winning team first (e.g. Chicago 3 New York 2). And that’s how they’re reported verbally.
Newspapers use different styles. Having the visiting team on top was a throwback to the days when there were multiple editions during the day. If the game started at 3:00, the edition printed at 4:00 might say:
New York 4 (2nd)
That indicates a second inning score.
The next edition, published at 5:00, might say
New York 4 (9th)
Indicating the score was tied in the ninth.
The final might be
New York 6 (F)
The format makes it easy for the newspaper to report on the score as it comes in: you only had to reset the number of runs and the inning. Nowadays, you’ll see this convention on places like ESPN which reports games in progress.
However, in the morning edition, the previous day’s game would be listed with the winning team first.
In any case, the newspaper chooses one style or another based upon what they prefer. Since the game is generally over, it’s common to list the winning team first (AP recaps are set up that way), but some newspaper stick with the format of listing the visitors first.
If you haven’t got Morris’s book, i highly recommend it. Someone as interested in the history of the game as you are would find it fascinating.
The way the book is put together, dealing with each small facet of the game individually, and tying together a bunch of evidence from often obscure sources, means that it’s an excellent reference book. Reading it like a regular book, from cover to cover, is very interesting, but gets a bit dry after a while. It’s fantastic, however, for dealing with the sorts of historical developments that this thread is about, because he really has been quite exhaustive in his research, and the way the book is organized in sections makes it very easy to look up particular problems.
It should be noted that the English (and for soccer by virtue of it being an English-derived sport, world-wide other than US) convention is to list the home team first. Thus, Arsenal 2 - 3 Wigan would be a home loss by Arsenal, and a dream win for the Latics.