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In a real sense, though, how many are coming to games is less important than who is coming. Community promotion in the past was too often lacking in baseball. Now the teams are not afraid to discount tickets or to give them away in the hope of attracting young fans who will eventually become adult paying customers. Not only will major league teams open their gates this season to those four million nonpaying spectators—most of them young boys—but they also will let another three million people in at reduced rates for giveaways. In Washington there now is even a Batting Glove Day.
Kuhn feels these promotions will help baseball cultivate the young fan who is shut out from pro football games because the tickets are priced too steeply and, for that matter, are usually not even available, residing instead in the grasp of their fathers. Giveaways are a guaranteed attraction. (Maybe someday football will need Shoulder Pad Days and Thigh Pad Days.) Baseball is an impulse game, unlike pro football where all seats are sold out to season ticket-holders 50 years in advance. Fortunately, baseball now realizes this and, except in extreme instances, there always is a seat available for the man who wakes up and decides that he will go to the game that day. The Chicago Cubs could sell out their games for the rest of the season right now. Owner P. K. Wrigley insists, however, that 22,000 seats always be withheld for day-of-game sale.
It is significant, too, that many teams with top attendance ratings this season happen to have stadiums located in the center of mass public transportation systems and happen to play a higher proportion of day games than other teams. The Boston Red Sox, who may draw two million people into their 34,000-seat park this year, the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Montreal Expos all play in stadiums that are on rapid-transit subway lines. This makes it much easier for the young boy to attend a game.
The importance of mass public transport to baseball is emphasized also in the negative, for in California, where almost all movement is by private car and the baseball stadiums are built away from city centers, attendance is down across the board. The most serious problems are in the Bay Area, which obviously is not populous enough to support two franchises. The Bay Area has set records for campus demonstrations, bridge jumpings and end-of-the-world earthquake predictions this year, but not for baseball attendance. Although both the Giants and Athletics are contenders, neither will draw 800,000.
Further expansion is also a possibility. Dallas-Fort Worth and Buffalo are prime sites for the next franchises, and there is a likelihood that another team will be placed in Canada—probably Toronto, but perhaps Vancouver. Montreal's amazing success in its first season has convinced Kuhn that baseball is not merely a domestic game.
In all this Kuhn retains a hole card. The evidence still suggests that the fans want interleague play, and that when they get it—when Henry Aaron gets a shot at the left-field wall in Fenway Park, when Denny McLain moves into the Astrodome—previous attendance records will fall. In due course Bowie Kuhn will see to that.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]