December 3, 2023

Drop in Number of Fans Taken Out to the Ballgame

On Sunday, the Indians won their 13th consecutive home game — a 5-4 victory over the Tigers in their last at-bat — giving them the best record in major leagues. Unfortunately, more than two-thirds of the seats at Cleveland’s Progressive Field were empty, underscoring the difficulty that some baseball teams, and in particular, the Indians, have had over the first month of the season in getting people to come to the ballpark.

Despite their resurgence after two seasons in which they failed to win even 70 games, the Indians have the lowest average attendance in baseball in 2011, with a figure of 14,275 people a game. The weather provides something of an excuse — at most of Cleveland’s home games in April, temperatures have been below 50 degrees. But season-ticket sales are at their lowest since the Indians moved into their current stadium in 1994, which speaks of other problems not so easily remedied.

“We’ve dealt with some extreme weather and a very low season-ticket base, and that creates challenges because there isn’t a sense of urgency to come to the ballpark,” said Mark Shapiro, the general manager of the Indians.

He said the club had started to have an uptick in advance ticket sales for some games and that local television ratings were very strong. Still, with a local economy that has not recovered and with skepticism that the team is for real and worth spending money on, it may be awhile before there is a real surge of ticket-buyers.

The Kansas City Royals face a similar challenge. They have the second-lowest attendance this season — 16,985 a game — even though they are right behind the Indians in second place in the American League Central and almost as much of a surprise as Cleveland is.

Over all, baseball attendance is 1.3 percent lower than at the same period last season, according to, and 20 of the sport’s 30 teams have drawn fewer fans.

One reason is the weather. It is has affected more areas than just Cleveland, with 17 games rained out through Sunday compared to two a year ago.

Then there are the Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers, each embroiled in ownership problems that may be affecting their images. The Dodgers have drawn 14.5 percent fewer fans this season, and the Mets have had a decline of 15 percent. (The Yankees are also down, by 7.6 percent, but they have played more home games than anyone else, 18, and have been affected by the rainy weather.)

Attendance traditionally picks up in the summer when school is out and pennant races start to take shape. Teams also add more promotions when the weather improves. Whether that will help Major League Baseball reverse a three-year decline in attendance is unclear.

Still, several teams have had significant increases in attendance to offset some of the gloomier news elsewhere. Not surprisingly, the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers, who faced off in the World Series in 2010, have had double-digit increases in ticket sales. And the Colorado Rockies, who are in first place, have sold 19.8 percent more tickets so far.

Doing even better are the Cincinnati Reds, who made it back to the postseason last year for the first time in 15 years. They have had a 21.3 percent increase in ticket sales and a 55 percent jump in ratings for its games televised on Fox Sports Ohio.

“What happened last year with Jay Bruce’s walk-off home run that clinched the division, then starting this season with Ramon Hernandez’s walk-off home run, has kept the momentum going for both our players and our fans,” said Michael Anderson, a team spokesman.

On the map, Cincinnati and Cleveland are 240 miles apart. At the turnstile, the gap seems to be a lot bigger, at least for now.

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