Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scorekeeping: Tracking Subconscious Racism in Baseball

The following is a guest post is from Adam Felder and Seth Amitin and it concerns their fascinating new project Scorekeeping: Tracking Subconscious Racism in Baseball.

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We all talk about the performance of baseball players and our language permeates through every limb of the sport--the media, the fans, the players, the front offices, the public relations department, and so on. While these discussions often reference countable statistics such as home runs, batting average, and strikeouts, they also reference intangible characteristics that cannot be listed on the back of a baseball card. Descriptors such as “scrappy,” “hustling,” or “plays the game the right way” are bandied about despite there being no way of actually measuring these qualities.

Anecdotally, these intangible descriptors seem to be used disproportionately to describe white baseball players, while equally intangible pejorative terms (“lazy,” “lackadaisical,” “clubhouse cancer”) seem to be used to describe players of color.

Our study, “Scorekeeping: Tracking Subconscious Racism in Baseball” seeks to analyze the use of both complimentary and pejorative adjectives to look for any systematic racism present in baseball announcing. The study is being conducted by Seth Amitin, editor of, and Adam Felder, a social sciences PhD candidate at the University of Virginia.

Specifically, the study will analyze roughly 900 televised baseball broadcasts over a 30-day period—30 observers each watching 30 games and coding each incident of an announcer using an intangible adjective to describe a player.  Analysis will cite, amongst other things, the race of the player, the race of the announcer, the intangible adjective used, and the game situation in which the incident occurred. After compiling the data, analysis will be conducted to determine whether, all else equal, the use of these descriptors is linked to race.

Our team would very much appreciate assistance in completing the study. Specifically, there are two ways in which you could help:

1.)   Donate to our fundraising page on KickStarter. At the time of this writing, we are nearly 80% of the way to our goal. Should we end up overfunded, we can expand our scope beyond television broadcasts and begin to focus on radio and print as well.

2.) Volunteer to watch 30 days’ worth of one team’s games and code each incident. Our team will provide instructions for coding and a pre-formatted spreadsheet with which to code. Please note that it is almost certain that the 30-day window will include games that have already been played; you will need to be able to watch these games as well (an account is probably the easiest way to accomplish this). Upon completion of scoring the 30 day window, you would receive a small stipend for your efforts. If interested in data collection, please email Adam Felder ( or Seth Amitin (

Please feel free to contact either of the researchers should you have further questions.