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

By David George Surdam | Go to book overview
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Conclusion of Economic Side

Increases in real other expenses appear to have been a major cause of the Major League owners’ inability to regain the profit levels of 1929–30 by 1939–40, despite increases in real operating revenue. Real payrolls increased, but lagged behind real other expenses. In the National League, an arms race between five clubs spurred spending on acquiring players that reduced profits. The burgeoning farm systems were not a big expense for most teams.

Two teams created the bulk of the collective drop in profits between 1–929–30 and 1939–40: the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. While Connie Mack, Clark Griffith, and Donald Barnes might grouse about their declining fortunes, the Cubs went from being the most profitable team in baseball to becoming one of the biggest financial losers. Under Yawkey, the Red Sox, which had formerly lost money in dribs and drabs, spent most of the mid-1930s losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. At least he stanched the losses in 1939–40, limiting them to a mere $228,000 for two seasons. The other fourteen teams in the major leagues earned almost the same amount of profit for 1939–40 as they had a decade before.

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