the State of Baseball Profits
Major League Baseball was not immune to the effects of economic fluctuations. We can presume that economic activity affected the demand for baseball games, although the relationship was not always obvious. Baseball owners faced a severe economic crisis after the 1929 season. Some contemporary observers felt that the economic downturn and the accompanying unemployment might initially boost baseball attendance, as fans would have more leisure time.1 An extended economic downturn, however, would more likely erode fans’ willingness and ability to attend games, although the immediacy and the magnitude of the response are not well understood.
This chapter provides a description of the national economy and how baseball fared between 1929 and 1941. Although this work places considerable emphasis on profit/loss figures, the reader should recognize that interpreting profit and loss information is problematic at best. Sometimes owners cried “losses” when things weren’t so bad. The owners could, of course, camouflage losses through adroit manipulation of accounting rules. I will describe how fluctuations in attendance, revenue, and expenses affected profits and losses in subsequent chapters.
There are different ways of measuring economic activity. Although modern economists prefer to use gross domestic product (all goods