Questions about baseball attendance

I heard one of those “no one can afford to go to baseball games anymore rant” and decided to check historical attendance of baseball games. The average attendance of the last decade is at least twice what it was in the fifties. Now I know a lot of this is the doubling of the population. But considering how low ticket prices were in the past, shouldn’t attendance in the past been much higher? Especially since baseball then was far and away the country’s most popular sport? Are there sizeable segments going to baseball games today that weren’t in the past?

How many seats were in the stadiums back then? My general impression is that over the years the seating capacity got much, much greater (more ticket sales = more revenue) and then in more recent years the capacity starting going down again (to accommodate profitable luxury boxes and because fewer seats means greater scarcity and allows the teams to charge higher prices). Comparing raw attendance is interesting but it doesn’t address the question you’re asking.

Just to give two examples, Wikipedia said the capacity of the Polo Grounds started at 34,000 in 1911 and was up to 56,000 by the 1950s. 34,000 would be one of the smallest stadiums in the league, and 56,000 would be more or less the largest. Ebbets Field had 18,000 seats in 1913 and its capacity fluctuated, but it had 31,902 seats when the Dodgers left town - smaller than any current MLB stadium.

I would be very interested to see an up-to-date comparison of ticket prices adjusted for inflation over the years. I expect it would show that most ticket prices have gone way up.

And, of course, the Polo Grounds were known as a cavernous bathtub. I think something else that has changed attendance is the switch we went through from the older parks built to whatever dimensions the area would allow to the large, multipurpose stadiums that could hold a lot of people but were really only good for football. Then with the building of Camden Yards and all the following purpose-built retro-style parks we got a lot of stadiums that have good capacity, are actually pleasant to go watch a game in, and can artificially inflate attendance numbers thanks to season tickets from individuals and businesses.

From what I can tell, baseball is basically as popular now it has ever been - both in attendance and ratings. People wax nostalgic about how it was America’s favorite sport in the past, but it’s proliferation is far and away superior now.

You can watch any game, any day, online. You can listen to any game, any day. You can follow day games pitch-by-pitch online. There are teams in every major population center. Almost every team has a single-purpose ballpark with great sight-lines and significantly better food and drink options.

And when did businesses buying season tickets become popular? I’m sure that had an effect as well.

I really haven’t heard too much of no one can afford to go to baseball games argument. I went to the Arizona Diamondbacks opening day game this year and the ticket, 3rd deck, but right on the 3rd base line, was only $19.

I don’t know when it became popular, but my father’s company had season tickets back in the mid-1960’s.

Don’t forget that in the 1950’s they still had day games and Sunday double-headers, both of which dragged average attendance down. About the only weekday day games I see anymore in St. Louis are one or two “business specials” per month, and the only double-headers are to make up a rain-out.

All MLB teams, with the exception of the Cubs, play most, if not all, of their weekday home games at night. Doubleheaders are also pretty much a thing of the past, as far as regularly-scheduled games, though teams will, rarely, do a “day-night doubleheader” (which have separate tickets for each game).

I’m beginning to think this depends on the popularity of the team. I didn’t pay attention as much this past season, but in 2011, I followed the Dodgers and the Indians. The Dodgers that season had only two mid-week day games scheduled, while the Indians had nine or ten. I wondered if it was a ratings issue as much as an attendance issue.

Whenever my daughter and I are in a town that has a MLB team, we always go to the ballpark. Because it is a rare event (we live in different countries, and she is married), we always go all out. Great seats, food and beer. Day games are the best! Last time we went the total added up to around $200, and that was to see the Mariners! Worth it? Hell ya! But, due to the expense, I couldn’t do it everyday. I always tell everyone that in my next life I am gonna play Major League Baseball!

I was gonna get tickets to a Rays game, was about a month till end of the season. Rays were on pace to get a wild card…
Anyway, the radio was badgering about low attendance and there were plenty of cheap tickets left. So, I figure I’d toss $100 take someone to a game have fun I guess.

Only tickets available were like $200 ea, everywhere I looked. :mad:

(On a related note: the 2 Buccaneer Games I went to a couple years ago, cost me about $500 ea game: Tickets - Food - Beer and Parking - for Two)

There are way, way more people now with a lot of disposable income.

The increase in attendance in North American pro sports - it’s not just baseball - is due to a variety of factors, but the #1 reason is that there’s just more money.

  1. Stadia are much more attractive than they used to be. Going to a game is a generally more pleasant experience than it once was.
  2. There are more people to go to games, of course. Now, you might point out that there are more teams (30 now, versus 16 prior to 1961) but in the pre-expansion era baseball served fewer markets, and you couldn’t just drive from Houston to St. Louis to see a game.
  3. TV exposure raises interest. So does the Internet.
  4. The elimination of weekday day games and doubleheaders helps a lot, and
  5. People have more money. I know I said that already but it’s REALLY important.

It’s not a coincidence that attendance in the very recent past has flatlined a bit, as the economy has tanked and people don’t see big pay hikes. You will find, I suspect, that big time sports as a whole all saw huge growth in attendance and revenues in the 1960s-1980s.

You were doing something horribly wrong; there is hardly a seat in the house that expensive. Tickets are available to see the Rays for as little as $9.

Yea, they have tickets at $9, that’s just a bait and switch to get you too look for tickets, then all they have is $200 tickets available. Because them cheap tickets were discounted from buying it at “Season Ticket Price”, that are all bought up.
Ticketmaster = $$$
Stubbhub = $$
Craigslist = :mad:

You’re talking about the worst-attended team in the major leagues. What game was this you couldn’t find tickets to?

That’s really odd. By any chance did you look at Yankees/Rays or Red Sox/Rays games? Tickets for those high demand teams usually go for a lot more than other teams. I go to Mariners games a couple of times a year, and I only pay about $30 for right field seats. However, I never buy tickets for Yankees/Red Sox/interleague games, and I buy them at the Mariners Team store to avoid Ticketmaster charges.

I’ll join the chorus saying that is basically impossible, as someone who sells a good portion of a season ticket package to one of the best-attended teams in the majors. NLDS Home Game 2 tickets loge-level right behind home plate were selling for under face ($65).

There is simply no way you couldn’t find Rays tickets for less than $200 bucks on StubHub.

Hell, right now you can go to NLDS Game 4 in Washington DC (first time they’ve been in the post-season for 80 years or something) for $22 for upper-deck seats. And that’s a playoff game!

You can even go to Orioles at Yankees tonight in NY for $45 a ticket:

One of the factors that has increased baseball - and other sports - attendance is that management knows a lot more about, and spends a lot more on, salesmanship and marketing. Back in the 1950s Bill Veeck’s teams were the only ones having promotional giveaways and fireworks nights, while now everybody does it.

Would increased corporate ticket sales come into play? I don’t know how fashionable it was over the last 100 years to treat clients to a game, but it’s certainly fashionable now: for a lot of NA sports.

Anecdotal, but that’s exactly how it is around the seats I share at Busch - I’d say a significant majority are “business expenses” where the owners take clients (or just give them the tickets for a night). So I’m sure that pads the stats quite a bit, all of those season tickets pre-sold - it also helps the secondary market out a ton (for buyers, at least).

These…I didn’t make it to a Royals game this year, but if you want to go on a weekday afternoon or evening, you can get an upper deck seat over 1st or 3rd base in the teens.