The Hall of Fame’s attendance is in decline

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There’s an article over at Sports Business Journal — sorry, subscription only — about the financials and attendance for the Hall of Fame.

The money part sounds somewhat more dire than it may be in practice. The joint has lost money for seven of the past nine years, including a $2.36 million loss for 2010 (the last year when full numbers were available) and a $4.3 million loss in 2009.  Obviously not great, but as the article notes, it’s misleading given that the Hall is a non-profit and a lot of its income comes from donations that, while counted in the year received, are used to fund operations for several years in some cases.

More interesting to me are the attendance numbers:

Museum attendance has slid from 352,000 in 2007 to 301,755 in 2008, 289,000 in 2009, 281,000 in 2010, and a projected figure of between 265,000 and 270,000 for 2011. Annual attendance topped 400,000 in peak years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A lot of the recent slide is probably due to the recession. If you can’t travel as often, the trip to way-out-of-the-way upstate New York is probably high on the list for sacrifice.

I imagine some of it, too, has to do with casual fans moving away somewhat from baseball in the mid-90s with the labor strife and the overall rise in the popularity of other sports.  Casual fans still go to the games in droves because it’s a relatively low opportunity cost kind of pursuit, but they’re not going to make a special point to go to the Hall. Sports overall have become more fragmented.

All of which makes me wonder — as others have before — what attendance would look like if the Hall were, you know, someplace near a major population center.  It’s an academic point given how deeply the Hall’s management and board are invested in the town of Cooperstown, but it would be a pretty gigantic increase if the place was in New York or Chicago, I’m sure.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.