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Scorekeeping: Tracking Subtle Racism in Baseball

If you’re like me (which is to say, if you’re a PC-obsessed liberal with major white guilt issues), you’ve noticed some things about the way baseball players of certain colors get treated. Almost without exception, white players–especially white middle infielders–are “scrappy” or “gritty.” Here in Red Sox Nation we celebrate “Dirt Dogs,” which is basically the same concept.

Trot Nixon: Definitely a Dirt Dog.

You never hear that about black players. Think about it: When was the last time someone said Brandon Phillips was scrappy? Has anyone said, “Boy, that Yuniesky Betancourt might not be the most talented guy out there, but he’s a gritty ballplayer who’ll give you everything he has, day in and day out?” Putting aside the fact that no one should praise Yuniesky Betancourt for anything, ever, it seems that with black and Latino players, exceptional play is always a result of exceptional talent, rather than exceptional effort. A guy like Jose Reyes, for example, is going to be referred to as a “phenomenal athlete” a lot more than someone like Chase Utley.

The Scorekeeping Project is designed to turn these anecdotal observations into a scientific study, to see if there really is a racial bias in announcing. The plan is to get 30 people to watch 30 telecasts of Major League games, and then track the code words that announcers use to describe players and plays. Seth at Dingers Blog has been working on the project independently for a long time, and now he’s leading the charge to turn it into an actual scientific study.

Of course, it’s hard to get 30 people to do anything, especially watch 30 Major League games while taking detailed notes and having to listen to Michael Kay or Chip Caray. On top of that there are hassles of organizing, keeping people on track, and just making sure things run smoothly. What I’m getting at is that he needs money. The Kickstarter link for the project is here, and it would be awesome if you could donate, even as little as one dollar. The project only gets funded if people pledge enough to raise $2,500; right now it’s sitting at just over $450, less than a day after being announced.

I really want to see this get done, so much so that I volunteered and produced the video that further explains the project. It would be great if we could turn our anecdotal observations into cold, hard data.

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