Backward K In Baseball -What Does It Mean?

The backward “K” in baseball can be seen in major league ballparks all across the country. Fans along the outfield fence will hang signs that have a “K” on them, as well as a backward “K.” What does the backward K mean, and why do teams use it?

The backward K in baseball means that the batter struck without swinging at the third strike. The backward K is used in the scorebook to keep track of how the player struck out.

In this article, we’re going to show you what the backward K means in detail and why it became so popular in baseball.

What The Backward K In Baseball Means

The regular “K” in baseball represents a strikeout swinging. When a player swings the bat and doesn’t make contact, or if he foul tips it into the catcher’s glove, this is represented by a standard K.

If the batter gets called out on strikes without swinging the bat on the third strike, the sign will then be reversed to a backward K. If the batter gets called looking, it oftentimes means the pitcher fooled them or perfectly located a pitch that the batter thought was going to be a ball.

In this article, we will show you what the backward K means in baseball and how it’s commonly used.

How The Backward K In Baseball Originated

The backward K in baseball originated from a man named Henry Chadwick.

Henry was a sportswriter, baseball statistician as well as a historian to the game of baseball. He’s often called the “Father Of Baseball” for all of his off-field creations to the game of baseball. Here’s what Henry Chadwick gave to the game of baseball:

  • Abbreviated The K For Strikeout
  • Box Scores
  • Batting Average
  • Earned Run Average (ERA)

Henry Chadwick developed the box score for baseball, which was heavily influenced by cricket sport ( which he grew up playing and watching).

The letter “K” was said to be created based on the last letter of “struck,” as in struck out. It was easy to write the letter “K” in the box score rather than write the whole term struck out.

Innovation Of The Backward K

Henry Chadwick developed what would come to be known as the “box score” in baseball. The box score was important because there were no video or audio recordings of the game in the late 1800s. The only documentation that could be found from the game was the box score.

The creation of the box score allowed players like Babe Ruth to stay relevant, even into the early 2000s. This was all because of the box score, which still greatly impacted today’s game.

Chadwick also invented numbers for positions, which is still used in today’s game to identify who’s playing where.

How important was Henry to the game of baseball? After his death, he was posthumously inducted into the hall of fame, one of very few to get in with their off the field efforts.

Striking Out Looking With The Backward K

Striking out looking, means the player didn’t swing or even attempt to swing at the bitch. The player simply watched the pitch go by them into the catcher’s mitt.

This often happens because the player is either fooled at the pitch, or they think it will be a ball so they don’t swing. Players who strikeout looking either understand that they’ve been fooled, or are furious at the umpire for what they think, is a bad call.

Many use the term strikeout or “punch out.” They both mean the same thing that the batter missed or didn’t swing at the 3rd strike.

When a strike three is called, he can often be seen “punching out” the batter for his strike three calls. Announcers can frequently be heard and talk about “punching out” the batter on a called strike three.

Umpires have gone as far as improving their strike three calls, with wild, over the top animations to punch batters out.

As the K started to show up on more and more box score sheets, different variations started to appear.

The K was now being widely used as a strikeout call, but there was no way to differentiate between a strikeout swinging and a strikeout looking. It may not make a difference to the average fan, as a strikeout is a strikeout, but to baseball statisticians it does.

If a pitcher is so precise, it can fool the batter into not swinging. It often means their location or off-speed pitches are top-notch. This is why the backward K was invented.

backward k in baseball
via Washington post

As shown above, the backward K on both a box score sheet and as a sign in the crowd can be used to signify when a player strikes out looking.

Another frequently asked question is why the K for a strikeout and not the “S”. The “S”, as seen on the box score, signifies sacrifice – such as a sacrifice fly-out or a sacrifice ground-out to advance a runner. The letters “SO” would be too crowded in the box score, so the abbreviation K was then founded.


The backward K can be seen in ballparks all across the world. It’s a symbol for the fans to remind both the pitcher and the batter how many strikeouts the pitcher has. It’s often seen hanging in ballparks, in the outfield in big red letters.

Fans often use red or black lettering that way everyone can see the K signs that hang on the wall. It’s a tribute to the pitcher that he’s doing a great job. The more backward K signs that are on the wall, the more time the pitcher fooled the batter when striking out.

K signs have been apart of the baseball culture dating back to the early 1900s. It will continue to be part of the baseball scoring system to signify that the player has struck out looking.

This easy grading system is seen in scoring books all across the world, and it’s become a universal language for scorekeepers to identify when a player strikes out looking. The K will continue to signify the player has struck out, and the backward K will alert people when there has been a strikeout looking.

How do you grade for punch outs? Do you have a different way to grade your box score and put something different for strikeouts? Let us know in the comment section below!

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