Wins, Losses, and Empty Seats: How Baseball Outlasted the Great Depression

By David George Surdam | Go to book overview

2. Why Did Profits Collapse?
The Revenue Side

Why did the owners of baseball teams suffer losses between 1931 and 1935? Was there such a sharp decrease in demand and revenues that owners simply could not adjust their costs quickly enough to maintain or restore profits? Gate revenue was affected by the number of attendees and ticket prices. Was falling attendance the main culprit? A reduction in attendees would tend to reduce revenue, unless it was matched with an increase in ticket prices. Did ticket prices change and exacerbate the declining attendance? A reduction in ticket prices could either reduce or increase revenue, although one must be careful in identifying nominal and real (inflation-adjusted) ticket revenue. What happened to the owners’ other revenue sources?


Attendance

Baseball’s attendance peaked in 1929–30. The stock market crash and eventual economic downturn did not trigger an immediate diminution in Major League attendance. The Sporting News editorialized that baseball was “such a good tonic… that it can turn the more or less depressed mind to watch its fascinations. If depressing conditions do bring about enthusiasm in baseball, perhaps that is partly the reason why the interest has been so great this year.”1 Such glad tidings proved ephemeral and baseball suffered from falling attendance during the Depression. The fall in attendance reached its nadir between 1932 and 1934.

-27-

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Wins, Losses, and Empty Seats: How Baseball Outlasted the Great Depression
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Prologue Clash of Titans 1
  • 1- The Financial Side of the Game 5
  • 1- The American Economy and the State of Baseball Profits 7
  • 2- Why Did Profits Collapse? the Revenue Side 27
  • 3- Why Did Profits Collapse? Player Salaries and Other Expenses 59
  • 4- Farm Systems 95
  • Conclusion of Economic Side 109
  • 2- The Game on the Field 111
  • 5- Competitive Balance 113
  • 6- Player Movement 131
  • 3- Using League Rules to Aid in the Recovery 157
  • 7- Helping the Indigent 159
  • 8- Manipulating the Schedule to Increase Revenue 169
  • 4- Innovations to Boost Attendance and Profits 195
  • 9- Radio and Baseball 197
  • 10- Baseball under the Lights 219
  • 11- Other Innovations 247
  • 12- How Effective Were the Innovations? 279
  • 13- The Inept and the Restless Franchise Relocation 285
  • Epilogue the End of An Era 301
  • Appendix 1- Radio and Sunday Ball's Effect on Attendance 307
  • Appendix 2- Dramatis Personae 309
  • Appendix of Tables 315
  • Notes 353
  • Bibliography 399
  • Index 405
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