Business of Baseball Reportby Brian Borawski
October 07, 2005
Major League Baseball set a new attendance record this year as ballparks around the league drew nearly 75 million fans. The official number from MLB’s press release is 74,915,268, which was a 2.6 percent increase over last year's 73,022,969, also a previous record. On average, 30.970 fans went to each and every baseball game this season.
In today’s column, we’re going to have some fun with the attendance numbers. It appears the ESPN's attendance table is missing some team’s final games, so I’ll use that for average attendance and I’ll refer to MLB’s press release for total attendance when listed. If someone knows the best place for these kind of figures, I’d appreciate you sending me an email.
First up are the Yankees. They’re the reigning king of attendance and they became only the third franchise in the history of the league to draw four million fans. The Toronto Blue Jays did it in 1992 and 1993 when they won back to back championships, and the 1993 Colorado Rockies did it when they made their major league debut. The Yankees have led the league in home attendance every year since 2003. They finished second in 2002 to the Seattle Mariners and third in 2001 behind the Mariners and San Francisco Giants.
Interestingly enough, the Yankees lost one attendance crown this year to their arch-nemesis. Since 2002, the Yankees led the league in road attendance, but this year they were edged by the Boston Red Sox. Boston led MLB with an average of 37,735 per road game while the Yankees finished with an average of 37,036. While I don’t agree with this particular Yankees fan's view that the league wouldn’t exist as it does without the Yankees, he does make an interesting point about the Yanks' road numbers.
Since the Yankees play ten road games in Fenway Park, the smallest stadium in the league, their road numbers are slightly diminished. If Fenway had the capacity of Yankee Stadium, the Yankees would gain about 150,000 to their total road number (15,000 per game over ten games). That would boost their average attendance number by over 1,800 so they would have easily won the crown again this year. Similarly, the Red Sox benefit by playing nine of their games in Yankee Stadium, which has a capacity far exceeding 50,000 fans.
In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers ruled the roost. Their attendance of 3,603,680 was the most by the Dodgers since Fernandomania was running wild in 1982. A year removed from a World Series win over the Yankees, the Dodgers drew 3,608,881 that year, which is a franchise record. The St. Louis Cardinals were right behind the Dodgers with a franchise record 3,538,988. The Cardinals not only benefited from having a great team, but they also received a good draw because Busch Stadium is being demolished in the offseason to get the land ready for the new Busch Stadium’s parking lot.
The biggest change in attendance correlated with the first team to relocate since 1972. According to MLB’s press release, the Washington Nationals drew 2,731,993 fans. Last year, the Montreal Expos drew 748,550 between their home in Montreal and their “home” games in Puerto Rico. That difference (1,983,400) is a touch higher then the increase in all of baseball (1,892,299). Take the Nationals out of the equation, and attendance was basically flat.
This year’s bottom feeder was the Tampa Devil Rays. Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg drew on average of only 14,052 fans. The only other team that finished below an average of 20,000 was the worst team in the league. The Kansas City Royals averaged 17,356 fans.
The Boston Red Sox set a franchise attendance record for the sixth straight year. In 2005, they drew 2,847,888 fans and they sold out 226 consecutive games. They also became just the second team in MLB history to sell out every game in back to back seasons.
Six clubs topped the three million mark in 2005 versus nine in 2004. Sixteen different teams exceeded 2.5 million in attendance in 2005, which was better then the fourteen that did it in 2004.
Minor League Baseball also saw some nice increases at the box office and they set a new attendance record for the second straight season. 41,333,279 fans showed up to see the big league’s minor league affiliates, which was a 3.6 percent increase. In total, 116,248,547 fans showed up to watch either Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.