Originally Posted by Milw
Attendance, for the most part, lags a year, because it's so dependent on pre-sales and season tickets. Spur-of-the-moment, short-term ticket buying is a relatively small segment of sales. It's why attendance in 2006 was much higher than in 2005, and why next year's attendance will likely be down considerably, barring a sudden turnaround by this group.
That is true to a certain extent in Chicago more than other places. Chicago baseball fans, until the Cubs became fashionable in the 1980s, never supported their teams unless they were winning. Even in 1959, when the White Sox went to the World Series, the combined attendance for the Sox and Cubs was about 2.2 million. The one team in Milwaukee, with about half the dates in a smaller city, drew about 1.7 million with a team that tied for first with the Dodgers and lost the playoff. The Braves averaged about 4,000 more fans per date than the White Sox with a smaller fan base. Even in 1967, when the Cubs overtook the White Sox in popularity and nearly caught them in attendance by the end of the season, despite the Sox being in a fierce pennant race, the two Chicago teams combined for less than 2 million.
There are some exceptions. In 1984, for example, the Cubs drew more than 2 million for the first time because of day-of-game sales while the White Sox sold a few more tickets due to advance sales. The 1977 Sox team that White Sox attendance record followed a dreadful season, and the 1978 season drew less than 1977 because it too was a dreadful season, but because of advance sales, it drew almost as much as the 1959 Sox. Bill Veeck insisted at the time that no Chicago baseball team would ever draw 2 million fans because o the weather, but Milwaukee drew 2 million fans in four seasons in the 1950s.
One of the things that held Chicago attendance down for years was a tradition. Before the Reinsdorf group and the Tribune company came into baseball in the 1980s. Both the Cubs and White Sox put 20,000 tickets for sale on game day. At the same time for many of those years, home games and only home games were on Chicago television.
That was both the Wrigley and Comiskey philosophy, and the ownership between Comiskey and Reinsdorf didn't change it. You didn't even get tickets for the bleachers in Old Comiskey in the early 1970s. You paid your dollar and got a slip of paper that you could show the usher if he thought you sneaked in. Chicago fans could no longer depend on getting seats the day of the game (which for the 1984 Cubs involved getting to the park early and waiting in line as they were selling out games with about half of the tickets being sold within a few hours of the game inspiring national news stories with the weekday long lines and sort of triggering the national cult of Wrigley). On one hand it contributed to higher attendance and more no-shows. It is part of the reason that attendnace under the Reinsdorf regime has been consistently higher than it was under the previous regimes. It also changed the culture of watching baseball in Chicago.