A followup to Patrick's history article

As a follow up to Patrick's history article, and because I like this stuff, I figured I might present a little research.

The national pastime, baseball, has traditionally been a prime spectator sport, yet it has never attracted paying customers in any way comparable to the crowds of today. Let’s have a look at baseball attendance since the founding of the American League. Ticket prices below were published in 2007 by Michael Haupert, of the University of Wisconson/Lacrosse; 2010 and 2019 prices are courtesy of The numbers from this article reference the attendance of the St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles, but relative numbers across the league mirror these attendance trends. The ticket prices are major league averages:

Decade Decade attendance Ticket Price (2000 adj)

1902-1910 3,353,200 N/A

1911-1920 2,504,419 $1.00 ($8.97)

1921-1930 3,799,586 N/A

1931-1940 1,271,579 N/A

1941-1950 3,338,419 $1.50 ($11.50)

1951-1960 7,863,321 $1.96 ($11.98)

1961-1970 9,635,084 $2.72 ($12.56)

1971-1980 11,630,932 $4.45 ($9.70)

1981-1990 19,277,253 $8.84 ($11.70)

1991-2000 33,172,284 $18.42 ($18.42)

2001-2010 23,508,779 $26.74

2011-2019 18,033,704 $32.99

Attendance at Oriole games in a single season, 1997, exceeded that of every decade through 1950 except 1921-1930. The gross receipts from tickets from 1911-1920 would be 2,504,419 spectators x $1 per ticket = $2,504,419; in 2000 terms, this would be $2,504,419 x $8.97 = $22,464,638. Gross receipts for the decade 1991-2000 would be 33, 172,284 x $18.42 = $611,033,471.30. In the decade leading up to 1920, the gross receipts would be about 3.68% of those from 1991-2000, expressed in 2000 dollars. The game in the year 2000 is clearly more of a money producer than it was in 1920. Owners would have a clear sense of these attendance and financial numbers. Therefore, producing facilities/stadiums, while giving more attention to creature comforts in the modern era, clearly seems cost effective.

Here’s a generic summary of the evolution of stadiums, from the original to the most recent, largely courtesy of Michael Gershman and the book Diamonds.

Prior to the year 1909, almost all stadiums were constructed nearly entirely of wood. They had problems with fires (Robison Park, for example, original home of the team that would be the St. Louis Cardinals, had serious fires in 1898 and 1901), as well as upkeep. Commencing in 1909, teams started building stadiums made from reinforced concrete (steel rods placed into formed concrete) which was more reliable and cheaper than simple steel. The following is a table of stadiums constructed between 1909 and 1914, using this simple technique, including outfield dimensions:

Year Park Location Left Center Right

1909 Shibe Park Philadelphia 360 515 360

1909 Sportsman’s Park St. Louis 351 426 310

1909 Forbes Field Pittsburgh 360 422 376

1910 Comiskey Park Chicago 362 420 362

1910 League Park Cleveland 385 460 290

1911 Griffith Stadium Washington DC 407 421 320

1911 Polo Grounds New York 277 433 257

1912 Redland Field Cincinnati 360 420 360

1912 Navin Field Detroit 345 467 370

1912 Fenway Park Boston 321 488 314

1913 Ebbets Field New York 419 450 301

1914 Weeghman Park Chicago 310 440 356

The "innovations" associated with these facilities included size and safety – they were larger and safer than their predecessors. Each had a unique feel, as well; it would be difficult for a modern player to imagine playing in the Polo Grounds, hitting accidental home runs down the baselines, or tracking a baseball down in the cavernous center field at Shibe Park. Imagine modern owners in Ebbets Field or Sportsman’s Park, loading up their lineups with left-handed hitters to take advantage of short fences. Gradually, in some cases sadly, these stadiums reached their age limits, obsolescence, etc, and needed to be replaced; most of them are no longer in use. The next major wave of stadium building took place between the years 1962 and 1991, and largely these had two aspects in common: they were "multipurpose" (designed for use by more than one sport) and they tended to look similar, like concentric circles or "cookie cutters." Pittsburgh Pirate third baseman Richie Hebner is quoted as having said, "I stand at the plate in Philadelphia, and I don’t honestly know whether I’m in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis or Philadelphia. They all look alike." Here’s another table; it reflects multipurpose stadiums built in this timeframe, with their dimensions. Principally, they are cookie cutters:

Year Park Location Left Center Right

1961 RF Kennedy Washington DC 335 410 335

1962 Dodger Stadium Los Angeles 330 400 330

1964 Shea Stadium New York 338 410 338

1965 Anaheim Stadium Anaheim 333 404 333

1965 Astrodome Houston 330 440 330

1966 Arlington Stadium Arlington, Texas 330 400 330

1966 Fulton County Atlanta 330 402 330

1966 Busch Stadium St. Louis 330 414 330

1968 Alameda County Oakland 330 400 330

1969 Jack Murphy San Diego 329 420 329

1970 Riverfront Cincinnati 330 404 330

1970 Veteran’s Stadium Philadelphia 330 408 330

1970 Three Rivers Pittsburgh 335 400 335

1973 Royals Stadium Kansas City 330 410 330

1977 Kingdome Seattle 324 410 314

1991 Comiskey Park Chicago 347 400 347

The uniformity of dimensions is enough information. These stadiums all looked alike; pictures are not even required. Yes, they were cookie cutters. They were certainly functional, but they lacked some aspects. In an article entitled, "The Seductions of Nostalgia and the Elusiveness of Intimacy," published in The Baseball Research Journal #21, 1992, author John Pastier enumerated characteristics to make classic new parks successful, namely:

-Seats should be located as close to the field as possible and be largely protected from sun and rain.

-Playing fields should have configurations designed to challenge hitters and pitchers induce a degree of unpredictable play.

-Architecture should impart honest and structural character.

-Stadium design should show urban sensitivity and contribute to a vibrant communal environment

Along these lines, Pastier’s assessment is that Oriole Park at Camden Yards qualified under all the above characteristics; further, it is a milestone in ballpark evolution, the best park built in at least four decades. He has called it "quirky, but closer in character to the old parks than anything else built in the last forty to seventy years." Its backdrop includes the old B&O Warehouse, Eutaw Street with brass baseball plaques where home runs have landed, and close connection to public transportation. The field dimensions are set up in conformance to streets and have unique character. Camden Yards has drawbacks that are concomitant with new construction – the luxury boxes are nice, but they cause the upper decks to be farther from the field than are those built years ago. Regardless, the Orioles succeeded in moving to a facility that blends well with the neighborhood and has all the feel of a classic ballpark

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.