The Merc’s Ann Killion notes the bad timing of Lew Wolff’s anti-Oakland campaign, and reminds us what happened the last time a Bay Area owner trashed his hometown in the runup to the baseball season:
Almost two decades ago, Giants owner Bob Lurie originated the “I hate my ballpark and you should too,” public relations campaign.
In case Wolff, busy with hotel development at the time, overlooked Lurie’s campaign, here’s a brief summary of its effectiveness: an unmitigated disaster.
Lurie, frustrated with his own aging and shared facility, kept trying to move the Giants. To the South Bay. To Tampa/St. Pete. Anywhere but Candlestick Park. He let everyone know how much he hated his ballpark. And, in a stunning development, his words didn’t woo fans to games, but rather persuaded them to stay away. In droves.
The Giants’ average home attendance steadily declined from a peak of 26,074 in 1989, a year the team was in the World Series, to 19,759 in 1992.
That’s about what the A’s averaged last season, the fifth consecutive season of attendance drops. The A’s drew 27,179 in 2004, the season before Wolff bought the team. Last season, they were down to 20,559.
In our little baseball petri dish, we have proven that you can’t expect to draw well if you publicly hate your ballpark.
As Killion goes on to note, the turnaround for the Giants began long before they got their shiny new ballpark, and had a lot to do with new ownership that actually tried to improve and promote the product they had rather than simply run it down in the hopes of getting something better.
The A’s have improved their on-the-field product going into 2009, and should be doing everything they can to make the experience of attending a game in Oakland as good as it can be. The fans aren’t idiots. Having a nice time in the old Coliseum and not feeling like a dope for enjoying themselves isn’t going to blind them to the A’s need for a better ballpark. In fact, it may just make them support a new ballpark even more.