Ben’s Baseball Alphabet: K Is for Strikeout

According to a cartoon kangaroo on Sesame Street, words that begin with the letter ‘K’ are kettle, keg, kick, kiss, kite, and kitten. The kangaroo is, of course, correct.  In addition to what the marsupial said some other words that start with the letter ‘K’ are keratin, king, klutz, kazoo, and koala, which is also a marsupial. So, logically, when choosing a letter to represent a ‘Strikeout‘ in baseball the letter ‘K’ was chosen. Because when somebody thinks of a way to symbolize words that begin with the letter ‘S’ they usually think of the letter ‘K’, correct?

Other baseball terminologies such as ‘Home Run’, ‘Passed Ball’, ‘Pickoff’, and ‘Triple Play’ are correspondingly represented in a more logical manner with ‘HR’, ‘PB’, ‘PO’, and ‘TP’. So why is it that the letter ‘K’ was the winner when it came to ‘Strikeout’? Why not ‘S’ or even ‘SO’ instead? As with many things in life the explanation is simple and confusing at once.

Father of Baseball

Our story begins less than a month before Confederate troops fired the first shots at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. While our divided country was about to erupt into a bloody civil war, the New York Clipper, a weekly entertainment newspaper that ran from 1853 to 1924, published a story about Henry Chadwick’s baseball scoring system.

At this point, we will pause in our tale to bring you up to speed on who Henry Chadwick was and what his baseball scoring system was all about.

Who Is This Chadwick Fellow?

Henry Chadwick was born in England in 1824 and moved to the United States in 1837. In England, he grew up playing rounders, a bat and ball game, and cricket. His affinity for these games grew and when he came of age in the United States he began reporting on cricket for The New York Times. It was at this time that he first came across baseball. In 1856, Chadwick saw his first baseball game and his attraction was immediate. Shortly thereafter he began reporting on baseball for the aforementioned New York Clipper and the Sunday Mercury. Three years later, in 1859, with his fully functioning baseball addiction intact, he created baseball’s first modern box score. Around this time, Chadwick also came up with letter symbols to represent actions during a baseball game. It was with these symbols that his baseball scoring system was developed.

Chadwick’s scoring system, box scores, and articles were a way for Americans to follow baseball from home at a time before television, radio, and widespread photography. His influence in the game continued and he went on to be a part of baseball’s first rules committee. He was also editor of A.G. Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide and continued to write about the game until his death in 1908. It is because of Chadwick’s passion and devotion to the game that he is known in many circles as the “Father of Baseball”.

But Why ‘K’?

Now that we are a little more familiarized with Mr. Chadwick, let’s get back to why he chose ‘k’ to be the symbol for ‘struck out’ in his scoring system. It’s really quite simple. Chadwick explained that “the letter K in struck is easier to remember in connection with the word than S.” Simple and confusing, right? One can see his logic, but hmmm. And that is why K is for Strikeout.

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