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Are Yankees fans "the best in the world?"

Oct 19, 2009, 9:25 AM EDT

Not my words.  They’re Lupica’s:

There aren’t fans better than this anywhere in the world. This isn’t about whether or not you love the Yankees. This is about Yankee fans.

There are other baseball fans in other cities, of course, Mets fans in this one. There are fans who come out strong for teams who haven’t won the way the Yankees won, who don’t make the playoffs just about every year the way the Yankees have since Joe Torre first came to town 13 years ago and the winning came back to the Yankees and the Bronx.

But no fans have ever supported a baseball team, the most famous team in this world, the way Yankee fans support theirs.

Saying that any team’s fans are “the best” is obviously an exercise in biases, and there’s no better chance that people are going to agree on this question than they’d agree on religion.  Lupica is a New York guy who writes for a New York paper that is purchased by New York fans.  I have no doubt that he sincerely believes that Yankees fans are the best. But even if he didn’t, it’s not like he’d write that, say, the fans in Minnesota or Milwaukee or (shudder) Boston were better.  Assuming he was even proposing a way to measure it.

I’ll throw this out there though: wouldn’t one way to measure how great a teams’ fans are be to see how well they draw when the team isn’t winning?  Whether the fan base is of the fair weather variety?  If so, is it worth considering the following:

  • The Yankees were 1st in the American League in attendance from 1976-1981, when the team was winning a lot.
  • The Yankees fell out of the top spot in 1982 — to third — and didn’t lead the league again until 2003, finishing as low as 11th a couple of times when the team wasn’t playing well.  This despite the fact that they had one of the larger seating capacities in baseball over that time.
  • Contrast this with the Dodgers, who have only been out of the top 5 in NL attendance once in the last 90 years.  Or the Red Sox who have only been as low as 9th once in their history, despite having the smallest seating capacity in the game for almost all of that history. The Cardinals ranking has been more consistent than the Yankees too.

    I’ll grant that Yankees fans are pretty darn good — and it’s hard to find more knowledgeable fans than Yankees fans — but they’re not necessarily diehards.  Like the fans of most teams, they’ll stay home if the team isn’t winning.

    I’m not saying that disqualifies them from being the best fans in the world, but if I were Mike Lupica, I’d find a way to account for that before making the claim.

    1. yankeefan4life - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:23 PM

      With the exception of the Dodgers, all the other teams mentioned do not have two baseball clubs in the same city. The Yankees have to compete with the Mets, the Knicks, the Islanders, the Giants and Jets, the Rangers, the Nets, Devils, (did I miss anyone) and Broadway, and tremendous number of other entertainment options in the City that Never Sleeps. Boston closes at 1am. For those who want to see a great show, don’t waste your money on St. Louis community theater…go to Broadway. Basically, what I am saying is that in those other cities, their baseball team may be the only game in town. Not so in NY. So I think the Yanks do have the best baseball fans in the world!!

    2. Robert throws aspirins - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:29 PM

      Are the yankees going to admit to the world that they play in a windtunnel that favors hitters. #13 at the plate zzzzZZZZooooommmmmMMM fastball in the back. Yeah,baby, $money.. Johnny Damon,still a Red Sox. CC tabitha is done..His back and arm are finished. Robinson canoe is a classic utility man, kinda like Ken Macha or Mario Mendoza.,. Matsui is already packing to go home,still dreams of being like Suzuki. Posada will need Knee replacement surgery for both knees..poor guy(true player),Burnett ? He needs a “pitch-back” this winter to practice and stop throwing 56 foot curveballs. Bring back Butch Wynegar _-mn-it !

    3. Robert throws aspirins - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:30 PM

      Are the yankees going to admit to the world that they play in a windtunnel that favors hitters. #13 at the plate zzzzZZZZooooommmmmMMM fastball in the back. Yeah,baby, $money.. Johnny Damon,still a Red Sox. CC tabitha is done..His back and arm are finished. Robinson canoe is a classic utility man, kinda like Ken Macha or Mario Mendoza.,. Matsui is already packing to go home,still dreams of being like Suzuki. Posada will need Knee replacement surgery for both knees..poor guy(true player),Burnett ? He needs a “pitch-back” this winter to practice and stop throwing 56 foot curveballs. Bring back Butch Wynegar _-mn-it !

    4. GBS - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:33 PM

      Quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality.

    5. GBS - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:35 PM

      Well said, ladyfan!

    6. Frank - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:36 PM

      When Lupica claims “There aren’t fans better than this anywhere in the world”, how would he know? I’m sure Man U fans would be willing to argue as would Barcelona fans, Real Madrid fans, Arsenal fans, Chelsea, and on and on. I would Indian fans of their national cricket team would also object. Hyperbole, expect nothing less from Mike.

    7. Tom Shumaker - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:37 PM

      I constantly hear and/or read about how “knowledgeable” the fans are for this or that team. That’s probably the most questionable aspect of this article (and many others) and all of the attendant comments. Exactly how is anyone arriving at the conclusion that any city has more “knowledgeable” fans than another?
      I’ve visited quite a few ballparks over the years, talked to “fans” and haven’t been able to figure this conundrum out. And if you read a lot of these blogs, you might easily assume that the most rabid fans who post here day in and day out would be better characterized as “clueless” than “knowledgeable”.
      I’m just sayin’………………

    8. chris - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:41 PM

      Now that is an appropriate use of statistics! I love how others do not consider the population of New York! Of course numerically they should draw more…try doing that in the midwest! I also, if I may add, love how the Yankees receive most of the primetime slots for the playoffs. The Phils, the current World Champions, play on cable. It is bizarre and a slap in the face to the MLB as it states being the champion is not the real goal, dating movie stars and utilizing other publicity stunts is where it is at in baseball. That is sad especially when considering MLB approved it.
      Everytime you watch the Yankees, you see empty seats. Not in Philly. Everytime you watch the Dodgers, empty seats and cheering that shows a lack of knowledge for the game. Not in Philly. The Cardinal’s fans have more of a clue, no one talks about them. There are many clubs that have fans that really care, i.e. Cubs and understand the game. It is not about fashion for them.
      Also, yankeefan4life, the Yankees compete with the Mets only. Most of the cities have football, hockey, basketball and some have soccer. Let’s all say DUH. We are glad you like New York, but there is a reason everyone does not live there…not everyone likes it. Nice place to visit but…
      I would rather live right outside of Philly where we know what a ‘good at bat’ is and why the infield fly exists along with many other baseball topics that are beyond the fans in other cities.

    9. chris - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:45 PM

      I always provide a pop quiz when meeting up with a fan from another club.

    10. PAVEMCBEAN - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:46 PM

      YOU ATTACK THE COLUMNIST AND YOU BRAG ABOUT HOW THE YANKEES HAVE BEEN IN THE TOP THREE IN ATTENDANCE IN THE LAST TEN YEARS. NOT BAD FOR A CITY OF 8,350,000 PEOPLE. WHILE BOSTON HAS DONE IT WITH A CITY OF 559,000. THE YANKEES HAVE A STADIUM THAT HOLDS OVER 50,000 AND FENWAY HOLDS AROUND 33,000.
      THAT YOU ARE A DIEHARD YANKEE FAN IS VERY OBVIOUS BUT WHAT IS NOT IS YOUR FAIRNESS. WHEN YOU BRAG ABOUT THE YANKEES BEING IN THE TOP 3 FOR ATTENDANCE, REMEMBER THE ABOVE FACTS.

    11. jj - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:51 PM

      Throw put 2008 attendance for Yankee Stadium it was the last year of the Stadium, people for all over came just to say they saw the stadium before it was done. Any ‘best fan’ would know that. As far as road attendance, I’m pretty sure people go see specific players as much if not more than specific teams when it comes to road stats. Look at road attendance for the Giants from 2001 – 2007, and compare it to when Bonds was hurt (2005) and not playing 2008/09. I think you will see a significant drop in % of seats sold.
      Also, if fans think their favorite team is headed in the wrong direction and are unhappy with management how would a ‘good fan’ show this unhappiness – personally I would not support an owner that in my opinion is trying to ruin ‘my’ team – so maybe not paying for a seat is the way I show my unhappiness and try to bring about change.

    12. Ber - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:54 PM

      Ladyfan, I am a Yankee fan. I am not an elitist who thinks we have the best fa base in the world and all that, but please don’t say that Red Sox fans don’t do this and “Red Sox fans don’t need to declare to the world whether or not we are the “best” . . . . our team knows how we feel about them” – I’ve seen more Red Sox bloggers out there saying how the Yankee fan base is all fairweather and theirs is the “best”, “most loyal” etc. than Yankees, ad i follow Yankees blogs generally.
      This whole argument is stupid. Each team has it’s share of fans who are civil and more than it’s fair share who are obnoxious and idiotic.
      BTW, can you name a game at Fenway where there was no “Yankees Suck” Chant – no matter who was playing there at the time?

    13. darin - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:54 PM

      They didn’t contend last year! They didn’t even make the playoffs. The dodgers don’t have the road fans the Yankees have. The dodgers have better fans then the Redsux I will give them that. Lol.
      http://cache.boston.com/resize/bonzai-fba/Globe_Photo/2008/12/08/David_Ortiz_001__1228775047_5762/499w.jpg

    14. Ladyfan - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:06 PM

      Ber, that was exactly my point. You, as a Yankee fan, don’t feel the need to go around telling everyone that you are the “best” fan, and neither do I, even though we root for different teams. If it had been a Red Sox fan who started this whole argument about who has the “best” fans, I would have chastised him just as thoroughly. Because yes, all teams have their fair share of obnoxious fans. Which is why the ones who are not that way should take part in these blogs as well.
      To answer your question, I would say about the same amount of games where the words “Red Sox suck” are not heard. It’s a deplorable tradition on the part of both teams and certainly not a credit to either.

    15. CalinCT - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:09 PM

      Craig,
      There are a few other extenuating factors you might want to throw into the mix, here, when using the 80′s as a benchmark.
      One of them has been mentioned: Steinbrenner’s mouth. I don’t think you can really gauge just how much he pushed Yanks fans away in the early 80′s. Driving away Reggie, bagging on Winfield, letting Ricky go (though that was late 80′s)..he did little to endear himself to the fans, and lots to drive people out of the ballpark and in fron of their television sets.
      Second, you also can underestimate the financial turmoil running through NYC during that time. There was an awful lot of poverty, urban blight, and declining social status. A lot of that reached it’s peak in the late 70′s and early 80′s, and didn’t really see whole sale reversal until the late 80′s and early 90′s. Finally, in the early 90′s, the crime rates really started to drop, the urban renewal projects began, and they city sort of righted itself. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the declining attendance sort of mirrors the duration of the cities problems.
      I attended games (with my father) during the mid 80′s. It was not what I would consider a great “scene”. The area was in rough shape, it was not what I would consider a “safe” area to wander around in, and while bleacher seats were cheap enough….the more desirable seats were starting to creep up in price. I know that, if the area was in similar shape today…I’d be reticent to take MY young kids to many games…and likely never a night game.
      Third, keep in mind that the Yanks probably had the best regional baseball TV coverage in most, if not all, the markets. Channel 11 was a mainstay of most Yanks fans. It was a high powered channel, and they had a GREAT announcing crew. It was also prominently offered in most local cable offerings. There are plenty of fans who preferred, considering the price and “risk”, to watch from their couches. Personally, I don’t think that makes them any less of a “fan”…so I’m not sure pure ballpark attendance offers you a true picture/headcount.
      Also keep in mind (though this may bolster your point) that the Yanks were not the only game in town. You had VERY good football, basketball, and another good baseball team right in the same city. When looking at the numbers, I wonder how many cities can boast the same thing? Even today…you see an increase in attendance for the Yanks over the past 15 years, but you’ve seen a dramtic DECLINE in attendance at Knicks games. You wonder if there is some amount of “rob peter to pay paul” in the fandom, and also in attendance.
      Yes, the teams were not nearly as good as during other periods of Yankee history…and yes, that’s likely a factor. But there may be some other things to consider, here.

    16. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:15 PM

      All excellent point, CalinCT

    17. Randy Cards Fan - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:17 PM

      You can all argue about attendance statistics all you want to. It’s not proof of anything. The St. Louis metro area, which is five counties in two states, is a little over two million people. When the Cardinals can consistently draw around 3 million fans, year in, year out, someplace the size of New York NOT selling out EVERY game should be embarassing for them. The attendance thing is all crap. There are passionate and knowledgable fans all over. Every team has it’s rabid fan base.
      Here’s what BaseballChick and I already know — If Matt Holliday would have dropped a fly ball in left field for what would have been the third out to win a crucial game in post-season play as a Yankee, Yankees fans would have thrown things; beer cups, seats, farm implements, small animals, etc. He would have needed a presidential style Secret Service escort to get to his hotel room. In a Cardinals uniform, he got a standing ovation during team introductions and at his first plate appearance at home to show him that Cardinals fans know him to be a very good player and a good addition to our team. We would like him back again next year, obscene Scott “The Jackass” Boras contract notwithstanding, and he knows that now. That’s just the most recent example of how good Cardinals fans are. There are many such examples.
      So while everyone talks meaningless statistics, Cardinals fans everywhere quietly and confidantly know why so many in Major League Baseball call St. Louis “Baseball Heaven”.

    18. Steve - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:17 PM

      I’m not sure what kind of attendance the Yankees draw each year. There are over 8M folks living there though, so drawing 3m in attendance shouln’t be a problem.
      The city of St. Louis has a population of around 365K. They drew over 3m fand again in 2009. I believe they have drawm 3m fanns in each of the past 10 years except 2002 when they drew 2.8M
      That’s pretty supporting your local team very well I’d say.

    19. tembo - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:28 PM

      wow!!! i agree that the blogs make for more interesting reading than the article. im a bosox fan-have been my entire life. any discussion like this (most loyal, we know more than you etc.) is silly, but its also what makes this sport great! ive been to my fair share of red sox games and ive seen my fair share of idiot sox fans that just take things WAY too far. however, that can be said about pretty much any team out there. i love it that everyone thinks the team they love has the best fans, you’re supposed to. however, i will say that i think maybe a few of you could use some yoga or maybe a little less red bull in your lives…relax folks just a thought!

    20. Jason - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:35 PM

      Go Huskers!

    21. smsetnor - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:54 PM

      I’m a Cubs fan and I’ll agree that Cards fans are pretty damn passionate. No doubt there.
      But, I will disagree with Baseballchick on Cubs attendance. It’s hard to get a ticket at any Cubs weekend games. And most times during the weeks it’s not easy either. Also, as a Braves employee, I can tell you that the stadium was most packed for opening weekend, the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Cubs. Most fans here are even annoyed by the amount of Cubs fans that show. Keep in mind, this isn’t from someone who’s been to Turner Field once or twice, but once or twice a week at some points.
      Speaking of attendance, here’s the list for this year. Top road attendance is… Your Chicago Cubs.
      http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/sort/awayPct
      Anyway, Cards fans are good fans. But so are all fans who hate pink baseball apparel.

    22. smsetnor - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:58 PM

      Also, pretty interesting if you sort by stadium percentages:
      http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/sort/homePct
      Philly and Boston both put more butts in the seats than there were seats. Followed by the Cubs and, wow, the Mets. Did not see that coming. I like seeing St. Louis above the Yankees. Go NL Central!

    23. Greg - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:04 PM

      First, let me say as a Yankee fan, I am NOT saying we are the “best fans in baseball”. I KNOW there are a lot of bandwagon-jumpers out there (please, I have a ton of friends who “coincidentally” became “die-hard Yankee fans” after ’96. That being said, I agree with CalinCT – there were a bunch of mitigating factors for lower attendance at Yankee Stadium in the 80′s, from Steinbrenner, to the economy to crime.
      As for the people posting about Cardinals attendance figures. YES, the Yankees play in a market that dwarfs the St Louis Metro Area. But it’s also a market that A) includes another baseball team and B) is the cultural capital of the United States. I’m not saying this in a “my city is better than your city” way (though to be honest I generally make that argument about NYC, because I love it)….I mean that essentially, the Yankees are not competing with just the Mets, but with shopping, museums, restaurants, attractions throughout NYC. I suppose the same could be said for a bunch of cities…but not really.

    24. Greg - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:05 PM

      First, let me say as a Yankee fan, I am NOT saying we are the “best fans in baseball”. I KNOW there are a lot of bandwagon-jumpers out there (please, I have a ton of friends who “coincidentally” became “die-hard Yankee fans” after ’96. That being said, I agree with CalinCT – there were a bunch of mitigating factors for lower attendance at Yankee Stadium in the 80′s, from Steinbrenner, to the economy to crime.
      As for the people posting about Cardinals attendance figures. YES, the Yankees play in a market that dwarfs the St Louis Metro Area. But it’s also a market that A) includes another baseball team and B) is the cultural capital of the United States. I’m not saying this in a “my city is better than your city” way (though to be honest I generally make that argument about NYC, because I love it)….I mean that essentially, the Yankees are not competing with just the Mets, but with shopping, museums, restaurants, attractions throughout NYC. I suppose the same could be said for a bunch of cities…but not really.

    25. TK - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:06 PM

      When doing an analysis such as this, the population of the surrounding metropolitan area has to be considered (the population from which the team can draw).
      New York has a metropolitan population of almost 19 million. Just for the sake of argument, lets say 1/2 of that population is Mets fans – that leaves 9.5 million fans to draw from for each and every game. With a population like that one should expect a team to easily sell out each and every game, with a line of people waiting for tickets.
      City / Population / Ave Attendance
      NY 9.5 million / 45918
      St. Louis 2.8 million / 41274
      Pittsburgh 2.3 million / 19479
      Milwaukee 1.5 million / 37499
      NY, St. Luois and Milwaukee each were in the neighborhood of playing at 87-88% home capacity. Pittsburgh, near the bottom of the leage at 50%. But when compared to population size (population from which the team can draw) one could argue that Milwaukee easily did better than the other teams – they had 2.5% of the population show up at any given game. The Yankees? .48%. Pittsburgh? .84%. (I left Boston and Philly out because they sold out every (most?) games and did not have room to put additional fans in seats, playing to 101 and 102% average capacity – therefore the stats would be invalid in this context)
      Using the stats in this manner could show that of those 4 teams, the Yankees actually have the worst fan-base – even behind the Pirates! But what do those numbers actually prove? Just that any story like this can be manipulated depending on how the numbers are used. Statistics – lying with numbers!

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