Sox Attendance Up 165,000 in 1999

Despite the majors’ highest ticket price, the Red Sox drew 2,446,328 fans to Fenway in 1999, an increase of 165,000 over 1998. The total was only the sixth highest in Sox history, though: they drew larger crowds every year from 1988 through 1992, with a peak of 2,562,435 in 1991.

Two factors stand out as possible causes for the increase. The Yankees didn’t run off and hide from the division the way they did in 1998, and some fans may have bought season tickets to secure seats for the All-Star Game.

The rest of MLB wasn’t so fortunate, as overall attendance declined for the first time since the 1994-95 strike. The Mark and Sammy Show remained MLB’s biggest draw: even though neither club played a meaningful game after May, the Cards and Cubs both set new home attendance records and finished one-two in road attendance.

In fact, more than six million fans paid to watch the Cardinals. At the other end of the spectrum, the pathetic Expos played before fewer than half as many spectators. Playing amid constant rumors that the club would be moved to Washington, Montreal became the first team since 1985 to draw fewer than 800,000 fans at home. That year only 655,181 paid to see the Indians – about what the Tribe now attracts for a two-week home stand.

Not surprisingly, Cleveland led the majors in percentage of seats filled. The Indians sold out the entire season before Opening Day. No one else came close to that record, but the Orioles, Red Sox, Cubs and Rockies all sold more than 85% of their seats. (This may be bad news for Sox fans: by playing to 90% of capacity, the Sox sent a message to John Harrington that the market will support another price increase.) Eleven clubs sold fewer than half their seats.

Clubs on the verge of moving into new parks did very well at the gate. Seattle, which moved in midseason, enjoyed a 10% jump in attendance even as the team crumbled, and fans in Detroit, San Francisco, and Houston turned out in greater numbers to bid farewell to their old parks

On the other side of the ledger, the two 1998 expansion teams suffered the greatest drop in attendance. The decline was especially ominous in Arizona, where the Diamondbacks won 100 games but lost 600,000 fans. Maybe Jerry Colangelo needs to trade for McGwire or Sosa...

Copyright © 2000 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the April 2000 Boston Baseball

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