Baseball is full of little quirks that might not make sense at first glance. One of those quirks that people initially question is using the letter ‘K’ for a strikeout. Since the word ‘strikeout’ starts with the letter ‘S’, one would think that is the letter that would go down in the books as the official play, but instead, we use the letter ‘K’.
then why do they use the letter k to cross out? A “k” is used to refer to a strikeout in baseball because the letter “s” was already used to score a sacrifice. so henry chadwick, the inventor of sheet music, started using the letter “k” in the 1860s because it’s the last letter for “knocked out,” which was the common term for strikeout at the time.
Reading: Why is a strikeout ak
let’s dive into the story of how the letter ‘k’ came to be known as strikeout in baseball.
how baseball started using the letter ‘k’ for strikeouts
It seems that some things in baseball remain the same and one of the things that has been around for as long as people can remember is the use of the letter “k” to denote a strikeout. but how long has it been around?
the invention of the sheet music was the beginning of the use of lyrics for plays
baseball was invented by abner doubleday in 1839, but the box score was not invented until 1859 by henry chadwick. That means that for about twenty years, baseball didn’t have any kind of official scoring system for every play.
the reason henry chadwick invented the box score was to be a conduit between the game and its fans. Because there was no television or photography, the best way for regular fans to follow what was going on in the game was to get a play-by-play breakdown via the scorecard.
To be as precise as possible, Henry Chadwick resorted to using letters to symbolize what had happened during a particular play. This scoring system is what helped popularize Chadwick’s articles and ultimately landed him in the Hall of Fame in 1938.
“s” was already being used in the score box
When it came time for Henry Chadwick to score a strikeout, he found himself in a dilemma: the letter “s” was already used to describe a sacrifice.
Depending on who you ask, you will find that the letter “s” was used to indicate a “bachelor” or you will find that the letter “s” was used to indicate a “sacrifice”.
As someone familiar with keeping score in a scorebook, I’ve always used “sac” to describe a sacrifice hit or sacrifice bunt. so my best guess is that “s” was used to denote a single in baseball. and if you look for what mlb suggests, they suggest using “s” for a single.
Either way, the end result was that chadwick couldn’t use the letter “s” because it was already used to describe another work. so he had to think of something else to indicate if the play resulted in a strikeout.
“k” is the last letter of the word “hit”
when henry chadwick was inventing the box score, the most popular term for a punch at the time was “shaken”. As a way of indicating that a batsman “hit three times,” he decided to use the last letter of the word “hit.”
The last letter of “hit” is also the most prominent letter in the word.
In a nutshell, this is how baseball started using the letter “k” to refer to strikeout! The popularity of the letter “k” caught on and we’ve been using it to describe a punch since Henry Chadwick invented it in the 1860s.
what does a backwards k mean?
As baseball has evolved, stats have also grown to include more and more ways to track player performance. one of the stats that naturally evolved was the use of backwards “k” (ꓘ).
In baseball, a backwards “k” (ꓘ) indicates that a batter is struck out looking. regardless of how the batter received the first two strikes, the play will be marked as a backwards “k” if his last strike was called without the batter attempting to swing.
It’s hard to know when exactly the backwards “k” became a common idea in baseball, but the best guess is that the backwards “k” gained popularity in the 1980s when fans of the new york mets they started a tradition of keeping track. dwight gooden strikeouts.
dwight gooden was known by the nickname “dr. k” and every time he won a strikeout, Mets fans would hang a letter “k” to keep track of all his strikeouts. that’s how mets fans started the tradition (which we still see to this day) of using a backwards “k” to keep track of strikeouts where batters were facing down.
what is the “k rate” in baseball?
if you’re doing some research on the letter “k”, which stands for strikethrough, then you may also come across something called a “k-rate”, but what exactly is a k-rate?
according to mlb, “k-rate” in baseball refers to how often a pitcher strikes out batters. the way to calculate the rate k is to divide the total strikeouts by the total batters faced.
Sometimes k-rate can also refer to how many strikeouts the pitcher had per 9 innings.
rate k can tell managers how well pitchers can serve without the batter putting the ball in play. the higher the rate of k, the better the performance of the launcher.
what are the most strikeouts in a baseball game?
With all this talk about strikeouts, the letter “k” and backwards “k’s”, one might begin to wonder what the most recorded strikeouts in a baseball game are.
max scherzer, kerry wood and roger clemens hold the record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game with 20 recorded strikeouts. Although Tom Cheney holds the record for most strikeouts in a game with 21 recorded strikeouts while pitching 16 innings.
if the fans of these teams also followed the tradition started by the mets, then there are a lot of k’s that had to hang up!