Milestones are a part of baseball on the field but up in the press box at Citi Field Tuesday night Howie Karpin achieved one that does not get noticed. The senior official scorer in New York for Major League Baseball officially scored his 1,000th game after the Pittsburgh Pirates closed the books on the New York Mets 4-0.
The distinction does not get noticed though. An official scorer does make the final judgment of a hit or an error. Baseball, now of course depends on statistics and determining a hit over an error can at times become controversial and subject to debate.
And over the last 18-years, as Karpin will tell you, there have been those controversial scoring plays that have been questioned. That is just part of the game and like the umpires on the field, a Karpin call could be the subject of a long debate.
“It’s a nice milestone … 18 years,” said Karpin Wednesday evening before preparing to score game number 1,0001 as the Mets took on the Pirates in the second of three games.” He is one of three official scorers employed by MLB to work games at New York’s two big-league ballparks.
Along with his papers and pencils, Karpin had his copy of the official rules of baseball – an essential piece of equipment . The Bronx native who resides in Riverdale has to know the rules because that is a criteria for the job and as rules change in the game it sometimes makes scoring the plays a little more difficult.
He says, “There is a lot more to the job than it was. Everybody sees the plays quite different and more extensive. Job has changed drastically over the last few years.”
Blame the changes on fantasy baseball, or more statistics that players, coaches and managers depend on, regardless the official scorer is an essential part of the game. The rule book is of course the most essential tool.
“You don’t have to study or memorize every rule, but you have to know what’s in there,” Karpin says. “That’s why I carry it with me every game.”
It is still an hour from game time and, as colleagues come by and say hello, Karpin has little time to talk.
Karpin first approached the late Bill Shannon, the dean of scorers in New York and the managing editor of the Sports Press Service, to express his interest in the job. Shannon took a chance, and recommended Karpin to an American League official.
He always thinks about Shannon when he sits in the official chair at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium during the course of a long baseball season in New York.
“When you are sitting in that seat you are responsible,” Karpin says, adding that his calls can affect the way a player is judged on the field. A scorer’s judgment calls are reflected in the stat line, and statistics have long been a determinant of player salaries.
“You have to have a tough exterior to be in this job,” Karpin says. “Because of the things you have to deal with, during the game you have to be very objective.”
Karpin said he has never had to make a call that led to or denied a no-hitter, but admitted he has had his share of difficult decisions in the decade he has been scoring games.
The biggest thrill, he said, has been scoring over 14 postseason games and three World Series games at Yankee Stadium, including Games 2 and 4 of the 2000 Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets.
Karpin, who was an outfielder/pitcher at Lehman College, recently co-authored a book, “Down on the Korner” that tells the story of the late Ralph Kiner and his post game show after broadcasts of the New York Mets.
As for another milestone, Karpin does not know. In the meantime the dean of official scorers in New York has been a hit and not a miss over the years.