Sunday, April 27, 2008

1875 Attendance Data, Part 3

Obviously, when a team visited St. Louis in the first half of the 1875 season, they would play both the Brown Stockings and the Reds. This makes it possible to directly compare the two teams not just on the field but as box office draws in St. Louis. While there are certainly other variables involved, such as the weather and how well or poorly the home team was playing, a major factor in attendance, the drawing power of the road team, is removed when comparing the data.

The first team to visit St. Louis in 1875 was the White Stockings of Chicago. The Chicagos were in St. Louis from May 6 through May 13 when they played two games each against the Brown Stockings and Reds. The May 6 game against the Brown Stockings was one of the most important games in the history of St. Louis baseball. A seminal moment, the Brown Stockings 10-0 victory over the White Stockings was witnessed by 8000 fans. On the 8th, an even larger crowd of 8728, drawn by the excitement of the last few days, came to the ballpark to watch the Brown Stockings beat the Chicagos again. On the 11th, the White Stockings took on the Reds at the Compton Avenue Park in a nasty windstorm and defeated the home club 1-0 before only 200 fans. Obviously, the weather had a dampening effect on attendance but the contrast between the crowds at the Grand Avenue Park and at the Reds game could not be more severe. The Reds/Chicago game on the 13th drew only an anemic 400 people. The Brown Stockings had drawn 16,728 in two games versus Chicago; the Reds drew 600. The attendance at either Brown Stockings/Chicago game was more than the Reds would draw in their entire NA season.

The Westerns of Keokuk were in St. Louis from May 21-27. Their first game was against the Reds and drew 200 fans. On May 25 and 27, the Westerns played the Brown Stockings and drew 500 and 300, respectively. Obviously, the Westerns didn't draw well in St. Louis but again the Brown Stockings had larger crowds in both of there games against Keokuk than the Reds did in theirs.

The vaunted Red Stockings of Boston were in town from June 2-7 to play one game against the Reds and three against the Brown Stockings. The Red Stocking versus Red Stocking tilt on June 3 drew 1200, the second best crowd of the season to the Compton Avenue Park. The Bostons played the Brown Stockings on June 2, 5, and 7, drawing 6000, 6000, and 8000 respectively. Each of the three Boston/Brown Stocking games drew more than the Reds would draw all season.

The Mutuals of New York played three games in St. Louis between June 9 and June12. On the 9th, they took on the Brown Stockings before 3000 fans. The next day, only 100 people showed up to see the Reds play the New Yorks. June 12th saw the Mutuals playing the Brown Stockings again before 2000 people.

The Whites of Philadelphia were in town between June 14 and June 16. The Whites game against the Reds on the 15th drew only 100 fans while the two games against the Brown Stockings drew 1000 and 1500.

The Dark Blues of Hartford were the next team to come to town. On June 22, they played the Reds before a crowd of 300. On the 23rd, 2000 fans saw them play the Brown Stockings. Their final game in St. Louis was on the 24th versus the Reds and only 100 fans bothered to show up.

June 27-July 5 had the Nationals of Washington in town for six games. The Reds drew 1500 (their biggest NA crowd of the season), 50, and 300 in their last three games in the NA. The Brown Stockings drew 1000, 500, and 100 (their smallest crowd of the season) against the Washingtons. The Reds drew a total of 1850 in their three games; the Browns drew 1600.

So except for the series against the Nationals (which I'll get to in a minute), the Brown Stockings were crushing the Reds at the gate. Why? I think there are several factors. First, the Brown Stockings were a substantially better team. Obviously, if you have two teams in a market, the better team is going to outdraw the weaker club. Second, the Brown Stockings' victories over Chicago, as mentioned, were seminal events and created a great deal of excitement in St. Louis for baseball specifically and the Brown Stockings in general. Third, I believe the locations of the ballparks may have played a factor in the disparity in attendance. The Grand Avenue Park was easily accessible to the public by street car while the Compton Avenue Park was not. This must have had some impact on attendance.

What's interesting to me is that the disparity in attendance is as great as it was. It wasn't supposed to be. The Red Stockings were believed to have had a strong following in St. Louis and were coming off a successful 1874 season in which they drew much larger crowds than they would in their 1875 championship games. The conventional wisdom, entering the 1875 season, was that the Reds would have the loyalty of the St. Louis fans and would outdraw the "Atlantic, Easton professionals," as the Globe-Democrat called the Brown Stockings. Obviously, this didn't happen. The "Atlantic, Easton professionals," as a result of their victories over Chicago, seized the imagination and support of the St. Louis fans and retained it for the remainder of the season. Another point that should be made is that while the Reds were a popular local team, they were one of many. It's possible that fans of the Empires, the Stocks, the Rowenas, etc were not predisposed to support the Reds and they switched their loyalties to Reds' rival. Certainly, the large crowds that the Reds were playing before in 1874 was, in part, due to the strength in popularity of the local teams they were playing. A tilt between the Reds and the Empires would outdraw one between the Reds and the Westerns based solely on the fan base of the teams involved.

I was rather surprised to see the attendance figures from June 27-July 5, when the Nationals of Washington came to town. How is it that a team in disarray, who just lost their pitcher, who were woefully uncompetitive in the NA, and who were about to shut down their championship aspirations drew their biggest crowd of the season and outdrew the Brown Stockings in their three game set? I can't even begin to figure that one out. Maybe the fans flocked to the ballpark to celebrate the departure of Joe Blong and the imminent departure of Packy Dillon, Trick McSorley, and Charlie Sweasy. Maybe the weather was unusually nice or it was free beer day at the Compton Avenue Park.

One more thing: I left out the attendance data from the two games that the Reds and Brown Stockings played against each other. On May 4, the two clubs met at the Compton Avenue Park and this first championship game of the season drew what had to be a disappointing crowd of only 1000 people. On May 29, the two clubs met again at the Grand Avenue Park and drew an even more disappointing 500 fans. Only 1500 fans total watched the two local professional teams play their only two games against each other. Of course, other than the two Brown Stocking/Chicago games, the May games for both teams drew poorly. I believe the major reason for this was the inclement weather that St. Louis experienced that month-there were several rainouts and postponements and games played in windstorms, etc. However, as most of my evidence for this is anecdotal, I'll have to check the weather data for May 1875 and see what I can find.

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