Tuesday night, a Bad Tweet made the rounds online and drew some derision from baseball fans:
You’ll be shocked to learn that this user’s replies quickly clogged up with attempts at correction and mockery. (It didn’t help that she doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on her initial comment.) And I mean, yeah, of course she’s wrong, and there’s no ill intent behind a K Corner. But to someone not well-versed in baseball scoring, the association of “K” with “strikeout” is not immediately clear or understandable, and does bring up some interesting questions.
Why a “K?” We can thank Henry Chadwick, the inventor of the box score, for that. Chadwick was well before his time as a statistician. Not only did his box scores change the way people talked about the game, but he also invented the concepts of unearned runs and batting average. When devising symbols for the box score, Chadwick supposedly used “K” for strikeouts because “S” was already taken for “sacrifice” and “K” was the last letter in “struck.” This made more sense in the 1800s than it would today, but nearly every aspect of Chadwick’s box score remains unchanged from his original idea.
About 100 years later, when rookie pitcher Dwight Gooden was dominating for the Mets in 1984, the “K” went mainstream. Dennis Scalzitti, a New York fan, is credited with starting the Shea Stadium tradition of posting “K” signs in left field, practically on a whim. Soon, Scalzitti’s lark caught on across the country, and still today, the K Corner is an important part of the baseball-fan experience. Seeing several Ks add up over the course of a night can be an exciting representation of a home pitcher’s great performance.
When the guy on the mound has three swinging strikeouts, however, things get a little bit awkward. Seeing a sign that says “KKK” at a baseball game is, well, seeing a sign that says “KKK.” For any knowledgable baseball fan, that’s basically irrelevant and easy to ignore, but for newcomers to the game, it can raise concerns. Last year, during Game 7 of an instantly legendary World Series, the triple-K was displayed, and people somewhat understandably moaned.
The weird part of this whole misunderstanding is that there’s absolutely no reason for it other than tradition. (MLB, possibly conscious of all of this and wary of any negative connotations, uses “SO” as its official abbreviation for “strikeout.”) As anyone who’s tried to explain a K Corner to a non-baseball fan before knows, there’s no logic behind it; the novice just has to take it on faith that Ks, occasionally tripled, are the way it is. The iconic K Corner is simply the result of history, like all sorts of other baseball stuff.
I’ll admit that the “K” is a tall, strong-looking letter, and that backwards Ks when a batter is caught looking are awesome. But an X could look imposing, too! And an R could be reversed quite nicely. A variety of symbols would continue to do the job.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with K Corners. The sheer randomness of their inception, though, means it would be totally fine if we one day decided to change them, too.