Behold, The History Of Chicago Baseball Attendance

Today’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) In Chicago, another baseball season is in the books.

And so are the attendance figures.

Down on the South Side – not unlike Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and Area 51 – U.S. Cellular Field continues to be a mystery as the ballpark once again this season served as the Bermuda Triangle of Major League Baseball, a place where good White Sox teams enter only to watch their fans disappear.

Conversely, on the flip side of town, the Cubs seemingly can pack Wrigley Field during a Depression (they did, in fact, more than doubling the White Sox’s attendance during the 1930s). Or during depression as more than 91 million fans have bought Cubs tickets since the team’s infamous flop of 1969. That’s about 20 million more than the Sox.

In terms of attendance, 2012 was the weakest in ages for both of Chicago’s hardball teams. The Sox, despite spending most of the season in first place and offering discounted tickets, drew less than 2 million fans (1,965,955) for the first time since 1995. The Cubs, meanwhile, drew fewer than 3 million (2,882,756) to Wrigley Field for the first time since 2003.

Nevertheless, despite logging 101 losses, Theo Epstein’s crew still outdrew Kenny Williams’ club by more than 900,000 fans this summer.

In the Windy City, the attendance disparity between baseball teams has been a burning topic of discussion for as long as I can recall. And from the economy to demography to apathy, the list of fans’ explanations (or excuses) for it seems to be even longer.

I don’t know, however, that any explanation really tells the full story about why the Cubs draw, while the White Sox don’t. The truth is murky at best, inscrutable at worst.

Two years ago, though, in an attempt to at least shed some light on when – if not exactly how – the Cubs became baseball’s Big Dog in Chicago and relegated the Sox to Second Fiddle, I conducted research for my Wisch List newspaper column by crunching decades of historical attendance figures.

I’ve now refreshed my findings. Beginning with 1920, the dawn of the first full decade in which both Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park were in use, I compared crowd numbers for nine full decades up through 2009.

And what I found is interesting. Because, the Cubs were not always dominant, you know. No, once upon a time, the White Sox held the Windy City in the palm of their glove.

But then it all changed, before it changed again. And again. And here’s that story …

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