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Baseball experiences its 138th worst season attendance of all time

Oct 1, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT

old turnstile

Sorry, been reading more of those “baseball is dying” columns, and they just force you to think that way. If you’re a glass-is-half-full guy, however, it was a pretty good year attendance wise for baseball:

Major League Baseball finished the 2013 regular season with an attendance of 74,026,895, the sixth highest total of all-time, it was announced today … In 2,426 dates this season, MLB averaged 30,514 fans per game.  MLB’s 2013 total trails only the four-year span from 2005-2008 and last year’s total of 74,859,268.

There’s always spin to this sort of press release, of course. Here MLB talks about its second half surge and the fact that there were a lot of rainouts. Still, attendance was down a skinch, with pretty a precipitous decline in Miami helping drive things south.

That said, attendance is still strong, especially compared to historic levels.  The worst draw was the Tampa Bay Rays, who drew 1.5 million. The days when multiple teams drew less than a million a year are long gone. At the gate, things are pretty good.

  1. esracerx46 - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    Make us white sox fans feel bad.

    • rje49 - Oct 1, 2013 at 10:46 PM

      Um,.. the White Sox have fans?

  2. primetimewr9 - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I agree, Craig. These ‘baseball is dying’ stories are unfounded. I love where the game is at right now and the abundance of great players across the league!

    • manute - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      Are you the “good job, good effort” kid?

  3. sportsdrenched - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Shhhh Nobody tell Colin Cowherd.

    • largebill - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      I heard him going on about baseball dying this morning. It is stupid to compare single game attendance between baseball with 81 home games and football with 8 home game. Makes as much sense as comparing total attendance between the two sports.

      • rcali - Oct 1, 2013 at 6:59 PM

        Colin is just another guy who likes to hear himself talk. I remember when he kept trying to shove MMA down everybody’s throat like it was the next NFL.

    • yahmule - Oct 1, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      Shhhhh Nobody listen to Colin Cowherd.

  4. mdpickles - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    74 millions fans is just one number. I’d like to see the Sabermetrics of these fans. How many hot dogs and beers purchased per fan with day/night splits? How many Dodgers and Giants fans per 10,000 were ejected from games? Cmon, 74 million means nothing, right?

    • mckludge - Oct 1, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      W-L record per game attended, with home/away and season ticket holder/single game splits. Might just find a good luck charm amongst your fans.

  5. dw3dw - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I’m guessing minor league attendance was also up–it increased last year to over 130 million. And somehow the independent leagues draw too. I guess people just love to see baseball. I wonder what the combined professional baseball attendance figure is?

    • sportsdrenched - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      That’s the thing. Football numbers are all measured by eyeballs on TV’s. That’s the one metric all Football Sycophants point to and go “Baseball is dying, and we’re better people because we like football”. Which I don’t get because I just as big a football fan as I am baseball. Those people fail to realize baseball is a different game and consumed in different ways. When you factor in the radio and minor league consumption you could contend the baseball is just as popular as football.

      Football happens once a week so it’s more of an event, and there’s a build-up to that event. Baseball is like your family. You live with it all the time, but damn you miss it when you’re seperated from it.

  6. sdelmonte - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    Meant to note that the aforementioned NY Times column was not by one of its sportswriters, even if Mahler did write a pretty good book about the ’77 Yankees (albeit a much better book about the ’77 NYC mayoral election). It was on the op-ed page. And while l like a lot about that page (at least if it says Paul Krugman at the top of the column), I also refuse to take anything about pop culture on that page seriously.

  7. sgtr0c - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Who really cares if stories are written about MLB’s popularity waning. It is played in the time of year when most folks like to go outside (and at twilight, when it is cooling off temp wise), it has very little competition (reruns on tv, no other sport going on), and it is still fairly affordable to take a family too. Obviously, it is a great game to watch and follow, very entertaining.

    And believe it or not, sometimes (not on this site) writers write stories to get a negative reaction to get people to discuss their writings. It’s not always about honesty, honor, and an obligation to write the truth to the viewing public. Baseball is not going anywhere, it will be back. It will probably be around even when my grandkids have grandkids.

    The Philadelphia papers this morning reported that the Phillies had over 3 million in attendance this season. They were a crappy team, people still went. I think the Wall Street writers should stick to writing about their stuff and the sports beat writers should write about sports. Know your role people.

  8. hushbrother - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    I wonder how many of Tampa’s 1.5 million were fans of the opposing teams’.

    • raysfan1 - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      It’s Florida. Less than 20% of the population there was born there, and folks bring there loyalties with them. Spring training also creates pockets of fans of those teams. In other words, to answer your question, a lot.

      It also needs to be pointed out that the Rays count actual attendance, not ticket sales. Teams looking for pressure for a new stadium have motivation to make their numbers look bad. Other teams, which I won’t name, routinely use ticket sales as reported attendance due to pressure to make their numbers look better.

    • jdillydawg - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      It’s pretty sad when a playoff contending team has the worst attendance.

      Baseball is dying. Breathing its last in Tampa, apparently. Next stop, Miami.

      Maybe retired folk just don’t like baseball…

      • raysfan1 - Oct 1, 2013 at 9:22 PM

        It’s pretty amazing that 1.5 million is the lowest attendance in MLB. Until the 1990s that would have been middle of the pack or better.

        The Rays play in St Petersburg, not Tampa. It’s in a location with poor mass transit and parking costs $20, one of the highest rates in MLB. That’s a lot for fixed income people, which a lot of retirees are. It’s also not real easy for many to get to even if they want to drive also. The tourism industry is still depressed, meaning a lot of the working age fans are out of work and can’t afford it either. TV ratings, however, are good. In short, the attendance at Tropicana is not reflective of actual fan interest or support.

        I presume part of your comment is being facetious, but it’s a hot button topic for me–I do not mean to sound patronizing.

      • sgtr0c - Oct 1, 2013 at 9:22 PM

        Florida isn’t the only state in the USA with a team and Florida way different then most states. Do not base your arguments off what happens there. People go there to retire or work at resorts (as stated above, 20% are home born). They have a lot of other activities to occupy their time. Most states are not like Florida. Not saying it is bad or anything, but the argument that baseball is dying because of what happens in Florida is stupid.

      • jdillydawg - Oct 2, 2013 at 1:44 AM

        Not patronizing at all, raysfan. Your argument shows that baseball is a bit out of touch with its fan base. I have a hard time believing baseball is “thriving” when teams like the Rays can’t draw because of all the reasons you cite. Completely not fan friendly.

        The ballpark experience isn’t what it once was. Although we still call it America’s favorite past time, most Americans can now only enjoy it from their couches.

        No fans = no game at some point.

  9. hildezero - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Baseball IS dying. Some die hard baseball fans just don’t wanna accept the truth.

    • Jack Marshall - Oct 2, 2013 at 2:20 AM

      “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up.”

      The evidence that baseball is “dying” is precisely zilch. And with a few well-paced lawsuits and brain trauma studies, pro football could easily follow the path of boxing and horseshoeing. If I pick one, I’d say football is less likely to be thriving 20 years from now than baseball. At some point, civilized fans might just decide that it wrong to cheer young men destroying their brains for a game.

  10. misterj167 - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    People who write these sort of things don’t really care about accuracy, like political reporting. It feels like it’s right so that’s what they write (hey that rhymes!).

    Baseball is not going to be again what it was during its glory days in the fifties, when it was the only major team sport. And that’s okay by me, even though I’ve come to think football is more thuggery than sport and that pro basketball might as well be WWE wrestling in terms of legitimate athletic competition as long as David Stern is in charge. I like hockey all right, though it bothers me that you can have players on the ice whose only skill is to run into people.

    But baseball is a superior sport. You can’t play the game angry, and you can’t get by on grit and talent alone. There’s no clock, there’s no point in baseball where you can actually stop playing in order to win. It’s the only sport where, when a team is on offense, the ball is controlled by the defense. Where legal plays can occur in foul territory. Where even the greatest hitters fail 7 times out of ten and legends like Mickey Mantle struck out so often that he essentially had three seasons where he never even touched the ball.

    More important, baseball is fun. Baseball is Marv Throneberry and Steve Goodman singing about a team that hasn’t won a championship for more than a century, a team as celebrated as the Yankees, the winningest and most evil sports team in the history of American team sports. It’s Prince Fielder stealing nachos from a fan and Casey Stengel hiding in a sewage drain and leaping out to make a catch. It’s Casey At The Bat and Take Me Out To The Ball Game and Van Lingle Mungo and Who’s On First. What does football have in that regard? Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through The Goal Posts Of Life? About the only time I ever agreed with George Will about anything was when he said that football combines the worst aspects of American culture: violence punctuated with committee meetings.

    Baseball will surpass all of them, and when baseball really does die, that is when you can say America has truly died.

    The playoffs begin tonight. Play ball!

    PS hope all the codes in this are correct!

    • jdillydawg - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      It was an Op-Ed. Meaning it was an opinion, and generally it is an opinion of someone who is not on the newspaper’s editorial board. (according to Wikipedia, that is!)

      Lots of opinions are based on a lot of things other than just straight facts. Perception could influence an opinion, for instance. Hell, your childhood experiences can influence your opinions. And if they do, they are just as accurate…as whatever it is you think needs to be accurate.

      Accuracy is in the pen of the op-ed writer…

  11. benjamincharlesparho - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    That title is what people like to call “advanced statistics.”

  12. ctony1216 - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Given the rise in ticket prices and the economy, it’s remarkable that attendance has been this good, especially with the bad seasons for both New York and Chicago teams. Baseball is in great shape, but if you’re in one of those down markets, you might not notice.

    That said, rising ticket prices and attendance and TV ratings drop-offs in New York aren’t a coincidence. Teams need to make sure they’re not pricing out an entire generation of middle class fans, who may be forced to find better things to do with their time and money.

  13. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    In case anyone wants the actual information to look at for themselves…

  14. ahenobarbuso - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    I think it is just a struggling economy that is mostly to blame.

  15. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    “The Texas Rangers posted back-to-back seasons of at least three million for the first time in Club history; the past two seasons have been the most well-attended in franchise history.”

    Ian Kinsler is not impressed.

    • jdillydawg - Oct 2, 2013 at 1:47 AM

      The Angels just announced their third consecutive season of 3 million. I was at an Angels game a couple of weeks ago and the stadium was half empty. Or half full, depending on how you look at the glass.

      Which led me to wonder, is 3 million really that good?

  16. jlovenotjlo - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    The weather was absolutely horrible across the Midwest (and I’m guessing some other parts of the country) the first two months of the season. I feel that is literally the only reason for the very mild “downturn”.

    Baseball just doesn’t work when its 38 and drizzling.

    • bfunk1978 - Oct 1, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Actually, the Marlins account for almost all of it by themselves. From 2.2M in 2012 to 1.5M in 2013 for a difference of roughly 700k all alone. The weather might account for most of the rest but I’d call that remaining 1.3% within the margin of error.

    • jdillydawg - Oct 2, 2013 at 1:48 AM

      It does in Seattle. In fact, that’s a nice day there!

  17. wgward - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    And, then when you have the Giants, who never gave up, down the stretch, and which on the final day of their season, came from behind to win with a walk off by Pence, what else can one want as a fan, even when we knew that a Post Season was out of the picture….

    Simply, the Giants have a great “product,” that S.F. fans cannot get enough of. Can’t wait ’til Pitchers and Catchers report!

    And, hopefully, Lincecum will be one of those pitchers.

  18. nbjays - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Why do we get a “baseball is dying” narrative every time there is no big-market, east coast team in the postseason, or a “world series ratings suck” when no big-market, east coast team is in the WS. Things that make you go “hmmm”…

  19. Loren - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    “MLB’s 2013 total trails only the four-year span from 2005-2008”

    It surprised me that 2005-2008 was the peak. That really puts a different light on the whole “The ’98 McGwire-Sosa home run race saved baseball after the strike” thing.

  20. stratomaticfan - Oct 1, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    If only attendance was paid entry into the park, not tickets paid for (you know…tix bought by scalpers and not resold, STHs who dont want to go to some games because team or opponents stink, etc)

  21. fearthehoody - Oct 1, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    I blame the youtube.

    – MLB fan

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