Despite economy, MLB thrived in ’09

By Alden Gonzalez
Updated: October 7, 2009

NEW YORK — Fans went to Major League Baseball games this season in near-record numbers, even with the economy in a slump.

MLB announced on Tuesday its 30 clubs combined to produce the fifth-largest combined attendance in MLB history — a total of 73,418,479 fans.

On top of that, the reigning World Series champion Phillies and the Red Sox each set franchise records, drawing 3,600,693 and 3,062,699 fans, respectively.

And they weren’t even the top draws of the season.

That title went to the Manny Ramirez-led Dodgers, which drew 3,761,669 for an average of 46,400 fans per game at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles, which led the Majors in both overall and average attendance, has reached the three-million mark in home attendance for 14 consecutive years, and the 3.6-million mark in five straight seasons.

Nine clubs drew more than three million fans (the Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals, Angels, Cubs, Mets, Red Sox and Brewers) and 10 clubs averaged more than 35,000 fans per game (the previously mentioned clubs, as well as the Giants).

“Major League Baseball is grateful to all of its fans for their remarkable enthusiasm for the national pastime this season,” MLB Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said in a news release.

“Given these challenging economic times, I am exceedingly proud of the manner in which our clubs have responded, demonstrating a deep commitment to maintain baseball’s stature as the most affordable and the most family friendly sport. The 2009 attendance being among the five highest figures of all-time reflects the vibrancy and resiliency of our game.”

MLB had a 6.6 percent decrease in attendance from last year, but it was actually 5.2 percent lower when accounting for the reduced capacities of the two new ballparks in New York — Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

With 3,719,358 fans, the Yankees led the American League in attendance for the seventh consecutive season.

Meanwhile, the Phillies sold out 73 games — including 42 in a row to end the regular season, the Red Sox increased their home attendance for the 12th consecutive season — the longest current streak in the Majors — and have notched 550 consecutive sellouts dating back to May 15, 2003, and the Twins — in their last season playing in the Metrodome — registered their highest attendance figure since 1992 (2,416,237).

In addition, Minor League Baseball drew 41,644,518 fans this season, combining with MLB to bring in more than 115 million fans from more than 200 cities.