Baseball Concerns in 1962

“When I was 24, it was a VERY good year!”
~ Bill McCurdy, The Pecan Park Eagle

Puzzling Questions Face Baseball Chiefs

By The Associated Press

(Sarasota Herald Tribune, Page 42, March 11, 1962)

Baseball faces up to some big questions in 1962.

Can the downward trend in attendance be checked?

Can the quality of play be maintained despite the dilution in talent caused by adding two new clubs in the National League on top of the two added in 1961 in the American League?

Does professional football seriously threaten to displace baseball as the national pastime?

Can the minor leagues be saved, and stabilized, so as to provide a training ground for major league players?

These questions have sparked some deep, serious thinking in high baseball places.

Attendance Problems

The attendance problem looks to be the most critical. Last year there was a close, thrilling race in the National League but attendance dropped from the 1960 figure of 10,684,963 to 8,731,502.

Until the last month there was an unexpectedly good race in the American League between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers, plus the excitement of the (1961) Mickey Mantle-Roger Maris home run duel. Attendance rose from the 1960 figure of 9,226,526 to 10,163,916 – but 1,860,233 of this came from the new clubs at Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Even counting the new clubs the total attendance of the two leagues fell 5 per cent and not counting them it fell 15 per cent.

Night Ball  

For the last 15 years (1946-1961) attendance in each league has ranged around 9,000,000, with half of this credited to night ball. This is a static condition in a rapidly expanding national population. That isn’t healthy either.

Meanwhile minor league attendance has withered away until now it is a question of heavy subsidization by the major leagues to maintain the minor league training ground so necessary for the development of major league stars.

Some baseball men think all the attendance problem needs is a fair break in the spring weather plus rousing races in both leagues. Undoubtedly either or both would help.

But in the long run baseball is bucking the trend away from spectator sports and towards participation sports such as golf, fishing, hunting, bowling, and the like.

Better, brighter stadiums with ample parking facilities would undoubtedly help. Such as are now available in Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and under construction in New York and Houston.

But a good stadium cost $15 million and up, and baseball can’t afford it. Public generosity must be relied on, instead, and there is a limit to this.

Professional football has been able to utilize television to build up interest but baseball has not been so fortunate. Away-from-home games of football teams are televised, allowing the teams to follow them, and then home games are blocked out, creating ticket demand.

It has not been possible to create such a productive pattern in baseball. For instance, because the New York market is so rich that high television fees can be paid, all home games of the New York Yankees are televised, and this will be the case with the New York Mets as well. Some, but no all away-from-home games are brought back to New York TV screens. Due to spirited bidding, the revenue to the Mets will exceed $1 million. This can make up for a lot of empty seats.

Few Games 

Most other clubs televise only a few games during the season, plus, of course, the “game of the week” of the networks.

Despite a certain envy of football for making such good use of television, and having an unlimited pool of talent developed by the colleges, baseball can afford to be tolerant of fast growing football.

But what if professional football decided to cut down on exhibition games and start its season extra early, say in mid-August, instead of September. That could create a real tussle for the entertainment dollar.

Baseball’s final problem is the minor league situation. Everyone recognizes that these must be maintained as a training ground. College baseball does not do the job in producing talent that college football does. The eventual hope is for a realignment on geographical lines, elimination of the weakest attendance cities, and sufficient subsidization by the majors to keep afloat.

********************

Eagle Notes. Assuming them to be basically well stated for 1962, what went further wrong with them, around them, and through them ever since over the past 56 years is worth, at least, a dozen books by some of baseball’s deepest thinkers.

Our ideas about where they got it gradiently wrong in 1962 include these:

Talent Dilution wasn’t coming to baseball from their own expansion. It was coming from all the athletes, including for the first time, opportunities for American blacks to play in the MLB who were rapidly choosing the NFL and NBA more often in preference to the years of working their ways to the big leagues through the farm club system. College was the way to go for athletes desiring a faster shot at the money being offered them by the NFL.

TV Marketing savvy by the NFL may have been underestimated by MLB back in 1962. The game of football was far more photogenic on the TV small screen and the NFL seemed to understand that their much fewer regular season games (14 or 16 in football on Sundays to 162 for baseball all week) also made it easier to market the NFL package then it did the harder-to-show TV baseball game from the hinterlands on an August Wednesday afternoon. When a sport plays far fewer games, mostly on Sundays, it’s simply easier to sell the value of each game.

The Digital Age. None of us really saw in 1962 how home computers, the Internet, and all the tentacles of the new digital social media were going to turn all our lives inside out by 2018. 95% of us didn’t even know such a day was coming.

New Pricey Single Game Tickets. Based upon a sharp increase in prices for individual 2018 game tickets in Houston, it’s going to be interesting to see if even the World Champions can build and hold a large enough TV fan base to include some who will still buy individual game tickets upon occasion to make those price increases worth the loss they now invite.

Wait for Spring. The only totally wrong baseball people referenced in this 1962 report are those who thought “a fair break in the spring weather plus rousing races in both leagues” was all that was needed.

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

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6 Responses to “Baseball Concerns in 1962”

  1. Brian Beebe Says:

    The thing that pops out at me is the cost of a new stadium: $15 million and up. Or abut what you pay for a good middle infielder these days.

    • Fred Soland Says:

      True enough, but you have to keep in mind that a beer cost you 25 cents back then…. now it can run upwards of $15!! If you can get one for $10, that is is 400 percent rise. Take that 15 million dollar stadium and apply the same 400 percent jack and you will see a 600 million dollar equivalent.

  2. Larry Dierker Says:

    A box seat to the World Series cost $80 in 2005 and $280 in 2017. The strike of 1994 killed attendance. That was emotional. This is financial. Is there a price point at which fans will stay home.

  3. Rick B. Says:

    What I want to know is why “dynamic pricing” isn’t considered to be what it really is: price gouging. I know all about the economics of supply and demand, but dynamic pricing is still a fairly recent phenomenon that teams came up with to try to maximize their profits. It used to be that a ticket in Section XXX, Row X, Seat X cost the same no matter which team was in town to play the home team. Now, if a fan wants to see a good team, such as the Yankees, he has to pay top dollar, whereas a game against the A’s will get the low price (and ‘low’ is definitely a relative term here).

    I occasionally receive a good discount offer from some source or another, but even those discounted seats are becoming costly. Much as I’d like to take my family (5 of us total) to see our World Series Champion Astros, it’s not worth it. Fortunately for me, my sons are still young enough (10, 7 & 7) to enjoy Skeeters games just fine, and we can afford to go to a far greater number of games. Once they get so old that they want to see their big-league heroes and nothing else will do, they’re going to have to get jobs and earn their own ‘going to a baseball game’ money.

    The sad thing is that MLB teams don’t realize they are not building a future fan base because they are pricing the average fan out of going to games.

  4. Tom Hunter Says:

    I recently bought infield box seat tickets for the Astros games at Coors Field in July: $66 a pop. After having spent $1800 for two tickets to Game 3 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, it seems like a bargain.

  5. Bob Hulsey Says:

    I don’t believe the author realized the great wave of Latin players on the horizon, not to mention some of the top international players from elsewhere. That replaced the talent pool that colleges and high schools could not handle.

    As for prices, the days of watching 2 or 3 games a week are gone for most households. Now, a trip to the ballpark is a special treat – not a regular activity. For now, the economy is good so MLB can pretend we will spend money on them but the next time there is a severe downturn, I think the majors are in for a big time economic headache.

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