Historical Baseball Blurb: Elisa Green Williams

Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports
Many baseball fans, when they attend a game or watching from home, enjoy scoring the action. It’s a sort of participatory, tactile spectatorship that puts you into the action of the game. It also makes you think about the rules of official scoring.

Most know that walks aren’t scored as hits, and that at-bats resulting in walks don’t count as official at-bats. Most also know that, in similar fashion, batters aren’t penalized for sacrifices, and aren’t credited for reaching base thanks to a fielding error. Less well-known? What happens when a batter gets a legitimate hit, but gets beaten legging it out to second? What happens when a baserunner pulls a Jean Segura and steals first?

Less casual observers around the league handle these questions—and they’re the ones who decide when it’s an error, when it’s a hit, when it’s a wild pitch, and when it’s a passed ball. The official scorekeepers have long been a subject of controversy.  Some argue that no-hitters have been ‘preserved’ by scorer favoritism, and even that DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak only reached that height thanks to some gracious home scoring calls.

Way back in 1882, A. G. Spalding perhaps prudently decided that, in the interest of insulating the official scorer from outside influence, his identity should be kept confidential. Between 1882 and 1891, only the scorer and Spalding himself knew whose hand truly recorded the official record.

C. G. Williams, who would later work in the Cubs organization, mailed a letter for his mother every day. And every day, his mother attended the ball game, watching the Chicago National League team from her spot between Mrs. Anson and Mrs. Dalrymple—names that will betray those ladies to baseball fans as the wives of legends Cap Anson and Abner Dalrymple. Neither of the ladies sitting next to Elisa Green Williams knew that their friend’s attentive scoring would be the officially reported scores in the paper the next morning.

C. G., when he brought the scores to the mailbox, didn’t realize what he was carrying, and the League Headquarters that received them saw only the signature ‘E. G. Green’—Williams signed her maiden name.

So it was that Elisa Green Williams was the first female official scorer in baseball, 40 years before she could even vote, and operated with complete anonymity.

Edit: See a very thorough and interesting article on the subject here. Apparently this gal had a whole lot more than just baseball going on...

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