Competitive balance may well be the most contentious issue in professional baseball. The current era features wealthy teams, such as the New York Yankees, which seem able to alleviate all their weaknesses by buying the appropriate free agents. Fans have long bemoaned free agency as a vehicle that helps the rich. Middle-aged fans of today, though, can remember baseball’s so-called “Golden Era” of the immediate postwar period (1946–64). Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and the Duke (Snider) were great centerfielders for some of the most storied franchises in the games. All, of course, were New York players. Many, if not most, of the authors who rhapsodize about this golden era grew up in New York City. Looking back at that era, we can see it glittered its brightest for fans in the Big Apple. In the American League, Cleveland and Chicago fans occasionally got to see a World Series, while the National League was somewhat more balanced. Few teams in professional sports have paralleled the Yankees’ domination of the American League. Between 1947 and 1964 the Yankees failed to win the pennant only three times, losing twice to Cleveland and once to Chicago. The Yankees won in the absence of free agency. This was no halcyon period for competitive balance.
Did the 1930s feature better competitive balance than the postwar era? How did competitive imbalance during the 1930s affect attendance and profits?