There have been several articles in the past few months about what the economic situation might do to baseball, and with them many comparisons to the Great Depression. Most of them have been driven by looks back at attendance figures. A couple of days ago, however, the New York Times ran one that gave more of a flavor to Depression-era baseball. Even if it’s not very instructive with respect to what 21st century baseball may face in these bleak times, it was interesting all the same:
Some owners, it seemed, lived in another world. Navin, the owner of the Tigers, bought a racehorse in 1931 even though his players were reportedly having their meal money reduced. Others focused on yachting . . .
. . . The Depression also forced teams to innovate. The Cardinals, for instance, expanded their network of minor league teams. Several teams, including the Cubs, did not charge women for admission, a promotion that East Coast teams soon copied.
A few teams generated income by allowing live radio broadcasts. Taking a cue from the minor leagues, the Cincinnati Reds in 1935 became the first team to host a night game, which proved very popular with fans.
The end of the blue laws in Pennsylvania also helped franchises in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which, until 1934, had not been able to schedule home games on Sundays.