Bye-bye regular season

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I’m glad the last day of the season is happening on Ocotber 3. My favorite final day of the season in my lifetime happened on October 3. It was 1993. I spent that day in Cleveland, at the last game ever played at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Tribe — with a young Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Carlos Baerga — were taking on the first place Chicago White Sox. The Sox won 4-0, but the packed house — over 72,000 for a baseball game, which was insane — cheered like crazy anyway.

First they cheered for the fact that Belle beat out Frank Thomas for the RBI crown (this was before we all learned that RBI didn’t really matter). Then they cheered for the fact that Cleveland native Bob Hope ended the day by standing on home plate and singing “Thanks for the Memories.” He was a bit wobbly by 1993, but no one cared. It was a treat.

Another reason why October 3, 1993 was fantastic?  As I watched the Indians and the Sox do their thing, I was scoreboard watching. And what I watched was the Braves beating the the Rockies handily, as David Neid, alas, was bested by Tom Glavine. Meanwhile, as Bob Hope sang, the Dodgers-Giants game was underway, but not yet decided. It wasn’t until I got down to my friend’s parents house in Wooster for Sunday dinner that we learned — via radio, not the Internet because the Internet was something you used at the campus computer lab in those days and, really, where were you going to get scores on that thing anyway? — that the Dodgers won, ending the last of the great division title races.  Man, what a day!

We won’t have any parks filled with 77,000 people today. And, with all of the playoff participants decided, we have no win-or-go-home games left to play.  But we do have the A’s and Rangers facing off in a win-or-play-the-wild-card-game thing. And the Orioles and Yankees could still end in a tie, forcing extra baseball tomorrow.  That’s not nothing.

Also not nothing: the fact that, for the last time until next spring, we have a slate of 15 ballgames. And no matter how great the playoffs can be, they’re … different than regular season baseball. Things become more important and more pitched and intense and that’s good. But today does mean the end of easy going, relaxing baseball for baseball’s sake that characterizes so much of the regular season. And I’ll miss that, even as things get all crazy over the next month.

Bye-bye 2012 regular season. You were pretty darn good to us.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.