JOHN L. PITTS: Baseball coverage evolves

By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – I can tell you exactly the year I fell in love with major league baseball box scores – 1974.
That was the summer Lou Brock stole a record 118 bases for the St. Louis Cardinals and I was a new high school graduate. At a time when it wasn’t always happy in my house – I was a teenager, after all – it gave me something safe to discuss with my father and grandfather.
I followed Brock’s quest in the fine print of the Nashville Tennessean, not realizing that in about five years I would be working there, typesetting those box scores.
When Bill James dared, in the 1980s, to bring a new set of measurements to the game – sabermetrics – I eagerly read his annual Baseball Abstract books, even as some of my USA Today colleagues scoffed at his ideas – including the notion that stolen bases are vastly overrated.
James’ ideas eventually helped the Boston Red Sox win two World Series – and indirectly introduced a new term, “moneyball,” into the sports conversation.
Fast forward to 2013. Now, my 5-year-old grandson can see the “late games” on his mom’s smartphone when he gets up.
To paraphrase the actress Gloria Swanson, baseball is still big – it’s the newspapers that got small.
And while I still love to read baseball boxes, we’ve made a tough decision this spring at the Daily Journal. With five local writers, the steady contributions of our weekly sports editors and a handful of trusted correspondents all vying to get their stories into the paper, we’ve cut back on our major league small print.
‘Our’ teams
We dedicate a half-page to the major leagues each day – still, a lot of valuable real estate – and emphasize getting in the box scores of the two teams with the greatest following around here, the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves.
There are those of you who are unhappy with this approach. I’ve got the voice mails to prove it.
But our first priority remains our local coverage, and it’s already made a big difference in the number of local stories we can publish each day.
Maybe there’s a high school kid out there who reads us every morning and says, “I’d like to do that.”
I sure hope so.
John L. Pitts (john.pitts@journalinc.com) is sports editor of the Journal. His column appears each Wednesday.