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

By David George Surdam | Go to book overview

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

-279-

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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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