Scoring baseball plaudits for a long-time servant
9 April 2015
As Australian baseball strives to gain traction as an attractive sporting option – and with the rapid advances in technology over the past twenty years – there is one particular area of the sport that has been especially challenged, one that has responded with enthusiasm and commitment.
Although not among the playing action and not enjoying the profile of the onfield combatants in the game, baseball scoring is both an art and an essential service at all levels in the sport.
Australian baseball has been blessed with many long-time, committed and efficient scorers. None more so than Victorian Phyllis Hargreaves, who has already clocked well over fifty years in the service of a game that she loves.
I met Phyllis and her devoted husband Henry in the early 1970s, when Phyllis was scoring for Greensborough Baseball Club in the former Diamond Valley League in outer Melbourne. Even back then, Phyllis did immaculate work that was promptly recognised by her appointment as scorer for the Diamond Valley League at Victorian Provincial Championships, a role that she has undertaken pretty much ever since - along with her other considerable duties at club and national level.
Her introduction to baseball – and to the art of scoring – was not accidental, with family ties having a significant influence on Phyllis becoming involved and engaged with the scoring service.
“My earliest recollection of baseball is watching my father playing on a Saturday afternoon with my mother scoring,” she told Australian Baseball Alumni. “That would back in the late 1950s.”
“My exposure to the sport of baseball was initially due to my father playing with a team called Brunswick Scouts Old Boys – B.S.O.B. At that time, before it became the Parkville Baseball Club, the initials were sewn across the front of the uniform top. My earliest memory of scoring was during this time when my mother – who was the team scorer - encouraged me to participate too.”
As old-timers will recall, facilities for playing and scoring were both pretty basic in the sixties and early seventies. There were few dedicated baseball fields, there were no permanent mounds, usually no fences, often no proper backnets, limited - if any - clubroom facilities and very little in the way of shelter from the elements.
“The weather certainly influenced where scorers chose to be located,” Phyllis Hargreaves said. “I recall that my mother travelled with a fold up stool that had a canvas seat which was used on days that were fine. However - on wet days – sitting in a car was the preferred option.”
Like so many long-time servants in our sport, it was the family connections that drew Phyllis Hargreaves into a close involvement with baseball. So much so that she went on to serve at the Carlton, Greensborough, Coburg and Fitzroy Baseball Clubs, while taking a lead role at regional, state and national level.
“My first appointment as scorer for the Diamond Valley senior side was in 1974,” she said. “I have continuously scored there with only two years absence when I took the position of team scorer for a Baseball Victoria Under 16 tour to California some time back. One other time - when Diamond Valley stopped participating for a while - I was regularly asked to represent and score for the VPBL Junior Teams at many ABF Junior Nationals.”
An ever-approachable, caring person with a warm personality, Phyllis Hargreaves believes that her golden era as a baseball scorer was probably through the nineties and the early 2000s.
“I was fortunate to officiate at Claxton Shield level as a member of a panel of scorers requested by the (then) Victorian Baseball Association,” she said. “I was also a member of the panel of scorers – including the late Beryl Bunting – who scored for the Melbourne Bushrangers during the original Australian Baseball League competition.”
As one of the most dedicated and respected scorers in Victorian baseball for as long as either of us might choose to remember, Phyllis Hargreaves speaks fondly of Beryl Bunting and more recently Michele Winther as being people of real quality and dedication among the scoring fraternity.
“I have been most fortunate to meet and officiate with many dedicated scorers both here in Victoria and interstate,” she said. “In addition to Beryl and Michele, Queenslander Belle Tegner was an inspiring, dedicated scorer I first worked with at Ross Straw Field at an Under 13 National Tournament.”
“Rose Corker of South Australia was also a very passionate and knowledgeable scorer.”
The success of those persons – and others aspiring to carry the torch in future – has been due largely, Phyllis believes, to their personal qualities including “intense concentration, understanding of statistics, a fundamental interest in the game and a solid knowledge of the rules.”
With the massive expansion of technology, there have been challenges and opportunities for scorers that have the potential to enable them to offer a more accurate, detailed and more timely service.
“The technology has definitely presented opportunities,” Phyllis Hargreaves said. “For example, some years ago, the ABL purchased a licence to use a baseball scoring program which was to be used at all ABF sanctioned national tournaments. The program was also used to teach interested persons to obtain an IT Accreditation, to help in operating national tournaments.”
“There are increasingly more and more technological advances that both challenge and have the potential to assist scorers,” she said.
Having scored and been involved in baseball at the highest club and representative levels for such a long time, Phyllis Hargreaves feels honoured to have met and to have worked with some of the more memorable and influential people in Australian baseball – as administrators, coaches and players.
“The likes of the Straw family in Victoria and the Greenshields at club level are ones that easily come to mind,” Phyllis Hargreaves said, “but there are just so many others, too many to mention – all wonderful baseball people who really characterise and define our sport.”
“Another who comes to mind as a magnificent contributor to junior baseball is the late Les Polson, from Moorabbin Baseball Club in Melbourne. For a number of years from the early eighties I was fortunate to be appointed as a Victorian junior scorer representing the state and officiating with Les at many national junior competitions.”
“Looking back now, I also recognise and applaud the concept of the Australian Baseball Federation being involved in sending a squad of players each year to Georgia Southern College for further training and development.”
“Those years I spent at Coburg in the seventies and eighties were great times,” Phyllis Hargreaves said. “The coaching staff was wonderful and the young players – like Brett Ward, Neil Jarvie, Michael Harper and Mark Linger – were just a pleasure to be around.”
Enjoying such a long and illustrious career as a volunteer in Australian baseball, Phyllis Hargreaves has a clear sense of the factors that have kept her engaged and that will continue to provide a challenge for generations of other scorers yet to come.
“I have met so many decent and interesting people through being involved in baseball,” she said. “For me it has always been a personal challenge to be as successful as I can in what I do. Along the way I have hopefully been able to encourage others to take scoring on.”
“It has always been a pleasure to be involved in a highly skilful sport played largely by people for weekend recreation. To be able to record the conduct of games for all time and to be able to provide statistics for each person on both teams is both challenging and rewarding.”
“I would urge anyone with an interest in becoming a baseball scorer to first volunteer at club level,” she said. "All you really need to get started are a pencil and a scorebook. From there is the potential to advance to winter tournaments, Baseball Australia national tournaments and even the Australian Baseball League.”
“Australian baseball is such a great pastime that offers so much for girls and boys, and men and women of all ages - including at Masters level, where people in their 60s are still playing the game.”
“I have enjoyed every minute of my time in the sport. Even if I could, I would change nothing.”
Australian Baseball Alumni congratulates Phyllis Hargreaves on the length and the quality of her service as a baseball scorer. We thank her sincerely for her assistance with this feature and we trust - we know - that we will see her around baseball parks for many years still to come.