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

By David George Surdam | Go to book overview
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12. How Effective Were
the Innovations?

Baseball owners tried several innovations to boost attendance. In the case of night ball and radio broadcasts, they initiated innovations well after the trough of the economic downturn. Sunday baseball, while not an innovation, was coveted by the five clubs prohibited from playing at home on Sundays before 1929.

How did owners ascertain whether an innovation was worthwhile? What evidence persuaded them? Owners may have examined attendance or gate receipts before and after initiating a change. Such before and after comparisons were accompanied by changing economic conditions, such as changes in the general price level (deflation or, later, a modest inflation) or in their consumers’ incomes, changes in the quality of their team as evidenced by win-loss records or finishes in the standings, and other factors. The simple before and after comparison, then, was just the first step. To disentangle the effects, an owner might have resorted to using statistical analysis, including estimating regression equations. During the 1930s few owners would have known of such techniques or had the computing power to calculate such estimates. Today’s owners can use spreadsheets and simple regression software and generate a multitude of estimates. Appendix One contains the regression analysis.

I will present the simple before and after comparisons of various innovations with respect to attendance. Since fans could move around

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