After four consecutive seasons of record breaking attendance numbers for Major League Baseball, the 2008 season saw overall attendance drop 1.1 percent, or almost...

After four consecutive seasons of record breaking attendance numbers for Major League Baseball, the 2008 season saw overall attendance drop 1.1 percent, or almost 900,000 fans.

MLB teams finished with a total of 78.6 million fans, compared to last year’s total of 79.5 million. Commissioner Bud Selig blamed the slip in attendance on bad weather and record high gas prices. Despite the drop off, the attendance number for the season was the second highest in baseball history.

A good indicator of ticket demand, secondary ticket market prices have been down all season long, FreeTicketExchange.com’s Joe Pensa told TicketNews, meaning there has been less demand for tickets this year than in previous seasons. Heading into the postseason, Pensa said his site has seen more of the same for the Red SoxAngels series, a match-up that happened in both 2007 and 2008.

“[Prices] were 40 to 60 percent less than last year,” he said. “The numbers are just not there.”

Of the 30 teams in baseball, the Texas Rangers saw the biggest decline from 2007, falling more than 11 percent from last year. Despite having the highest batting average and scoring the most runs of anyone this season, the Rangers only saw an average of 24,320 in 2008 compared to last year’s 29,795. The Tampa Bay Rays, the Cinderella’s of the season, saw more than a 12 percent increase in attendance bringing in more than 5,000 additional fans per game. Showing how dire their attendance has been in previous seasons, that increase was good enough to place them 26th in baseball.

Coming into this season, baseball teams increased ticket prices by 10.1 percent from the 2007 season to $25.43. Next season will more than likely see another increase, with the two New York teams moving into new stadiums and promptly raising prices including the Yankees having seats going for $2,500 apiece.

“This has been a magnificent season and drawing more than 78.6 million fans is a tremendous accomplishment, given the uncertain economy and the problematic weather our clubs had to endure during September,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a press release. “Baseball is more popular today than at any time in its long history. I commend each of the 30 Clubs for establishing affordable ticket options that have enabled all fans the opportunity to experience the thrill and excitement of our game. I thank baseball fans everywhere for their continued support and look forward to another magnificent postseason.”

Though Selig commended the clubs for having affordable tickets for fans, he also warned those same teams to not “get to cocky” with their prices as well. With the economy taking a nose dive in recent weeks, the commissioner knows that baseball may not be immune.

“I think anybody in business is concerned,” he said to the AP.

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By Tim Fraser