The Major League Baseball playoffs begin today, October 6, and the Philadelphia Phillies—which finished with the best record in the game at 97-65—are the consensus favorite to not only win their third straight National League pennant but also their second World Series crown in three years. But the Phillies are already the champions of baseball at the gate.
According to 2010 attendance figures released Tuesday, October 5, the Phillies played to 103.5 percent capacity this season at Citizens Bank Park, the highest figure in baseball. The Phillies also played to 75.4 percent capacity on the road, the third-best mark and enough to make the Phillies the game’s most popular attraction. They played to 89.4 percent capacity over the 162-game schedule, surpassing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox (each at 83.9 percent).
Overall, attendance at Major League Baseball games was down about one percent to a total of 73.06 million, and the league averaged 30,067 per game. It was the third straight decline since 2007, when MLB set records with overall attendance of 79.5 million and an average crowd of 32,785.
The Phillies didn’t lead the majors in total or average attendance. Those honors went to the New York Yankees, who defeated the Phillies in last year’s World Series and played in front of 3,765,807 fans and an average of 46,491 per game this year at Yankee Stadium. But Yankee Stadium has a capacity of 52,325 (counting standing room tickets) while Citizens Bank Park holds just 43,647.
The Phillies also extended their sellout streak at Citizens Bank Park to 123 games and led the NL in total (3,647,249) and average attendance (45,027) for the first time since 1950. The Phillies were ninth in the 16-team NL in attendance in 2005 but have improved their standing in each of the last five seasons.
The universal popularity of the Phillies is particularly impressive considering the franchise is not a traditional power and/or a team with a nationwide fan base such as the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs. But the Phillies’ recent success—they have won four straight NL East titles and are the only team in baseball to qualify for the playoffs every year since 2007—coupled with management’s aggressive acquisitions of ace pitchers such as Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and ability to retain homegrown stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley has made them a must-see no matter the locale.
Two other teams played to beyond-capacity crowds at home this season. Despite missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Red Sox extended their sellout streak to 631 games at Fenway Park and played to 100.9 percent capacity (37,610) at the venerable 37,402-seat facility. The Minnesota Twins opened up baseball’s newest park, Target Field, and played to 100.7 percent capacity (39,798) at the 39,504-seat park.
Of the eight teams to qualify for the playoffs this season, only four (the Yankees, Phillies, Twins and San Francisco Giants) made the top 10 in average attendance. But all eight of last year’s playoff squads finished in the top 10, supporting the theory that success on the field one season pays off at the gate the next. That belief may get a test next season, though, with the Tampa Bay Rays (22nd in attendance) and, to a lesser degree, the Cincinnati Reds (20th).
On the other end of the spectrum, the Cleveland Indians, just three seasons removed from falling one game shy of the World Series, finished last in average attendance (17,395). The Toronto Blue Jays were the only team to play to less than 40 percent capacity at home as they filled the Rogers Centre to 39.9 percent (20,068).
The most popular road attractions were the Yankees (78.2 percent) and Dodgers (76.9 percent). Nine other teams played to at least 70 percent capacity on the road. Surprisingly, the Rays had just as tough a time drawing on the road at home: They finished last with an average road capacity of 60.7 percent, just ahead of another pair of winning teams. The Texas Rangers, which won the AL West, and the Chicago White Sox, which finished second in the AL Central, each played to 61 percent away from home.