In the winter of 1946, when New York Yankees' General Manager Larry MacPhail announced that he was raising Yankees' ticket prices by about 7.5% to help cover increased operating expenses, then-Baseball Commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler was among those who were, well, unhappy with the decision.
The timing was wrong and the fans, who "had stayed with sub-normal baseball during the war years", deserved a break, Chandler told the St. Petersburg Times.
Never one to shy away from a confrontation, MacPhail fired back. "The question of admission prices, by the terms of the American League constitution, is not a matter over which the commissioner has jurisdiction of any kind," he retorted in the Times.
Poor Yankee Fans
The first to introduce night games and television to Major League Baseball, MacPhail said his plan was to raise grandstand prices from $1 to $1.25 a seat, reduce reserved seating from $1.80 to $1.75 and up the cost of box seats from $2.40 to $2.50. (Looking for ways to cut costs this summer? Check out Save Money On Summer Bills for some hot tips.)
Of course, that was more than 60 years ago, when General Motors (OTC:GMGMQ) was trading for around $79 a share (sorry GM investors), but even after adjusting for inflation, Yankee fans still pay considerably more for a grandstand view today than they did in '46.
And box seats? From what I was able to gather on Yankees.com, the official site of the Bronx Bombers, those prices are part of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that also includes the Legends, Jim Beam, DeltaSky360 and other private suites.
Which got me to thinking: In these tough economic times, are there any baseball teams offering a day at the ballpark that wouldn't make Chandler want to change his nickname to "Livid?" After all, according to an AP survey taken before the start of the 2009 MLB season, 45% of those polled felt baseball's biggest problem was that "it costs too much to attend a game."
"Like every election, it's the economy," New York Yankees star Mark Teixeira told the AP. "In tough times, disposable income may not be there."
Teixeira should know a thing or two about disposable income; in January, the first baseman signed a $180-million, eight-year contract to don pinstripes. (Not surprisingly, in AP-AOL polls conducted in 2005 and 2006, fans felt player salaries were baseball's biggest concern). (Need to buff up your bank account? Read Increase Your Disposable Income to learn how.)
Fighting for Fans
Some teams, however, are starting to get serious in the battle against empty bleachers. This year, the overall increase in MLB ticket prices was half of what it was the year before and 10 of the 30 Major League teams actually dropped their average prices, compared to the big, fat zero that lowered costs in 2008.
Obviously, few if any of those 10 teams are drawing comparisons to the '27 Yankees, but the Los Angeles Angels are presently leading their division and the San Francisco Giants are sitting atop the National League Wild Card standings. As Adam Sandler might say: "Not too shabby."
So, when looking for baseball's best bargains, I decided to consider not only what it cost to attend a team's home games, but also the club's current win-loss record. To determine cost, I relied on Team Marketing Reports' Fan Cost Index™ (FCI), a yearly survey that includes the following items:
- Two adult average price tickets
- Two child average price tickets
- Four small soft drinks
- Two small beers
- Four hot dogs
- Two programs
- Two adult-size caps
The Top-Eight Deals of the Diamond
(Statistics through July 3, 2009)
8. FLORIDA MARLINS
Record: 41-39 (2nd, NL East)
FCI: $170.24 (14th in MLB)
Despite the lowest payroll in the majors, Florida appears to be exceeding expectations once again. Two-time World Series champs, the Marlins went 17-11 in June and seem poised to make a serious run at the playoffs behind young stars Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantú and Josh Johnson.
7. MINNESOTA TWINS
Record: 41-39 (3rd, AL Central)
FCI: $169.81 (13th in MLB)
After recording 88 wins and just failing to capture the AL Central title last year, the Twins have been kind of a disappointment thus far in 2009. Still, with 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau in the lineup, how bad can a day (or night) at the ballpark be?
6. TAMPA BAY RAYS
Record: 44-36 (3rd, AL East)
FCI: $165.40 (11th in MLB)
In the wake of nine last-place finishes in 10 years, the Tampa Bay Rays exorcised their "demon" in 2007 and the team, previously known as the Devil Rays, won the AL pennant and went to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Sure, the club didn't have the cash to make the kind of offseason moves the Red Sox and Yankees - two division rivals - did. But, the last time I looked, Tampa Bay still has 2008 AL Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria, as well as Carl Crawford, who appears to back at his best following a subpar and injury-riddled '08.
5. COLORADO ROCKIES
Record: 41-37 (3rd, NL West)
FCI: $161.00 (8th in MLB)
Since firing manager Clint Hurdle and replacing him with Jim Tracy on May 29, the Colorado Rockies have gone 23-9 and moved from the cellar to third place in the NL West. Leading the turnaround have been unheralded players such as Jason Hammel, who is 5-1 with a 3.47 ERA over his past eight starts, and Ian Stewart, who leads the team with 14 roundtrippers.
4. TEXAS RANGERS
Record: 42-35 (2nd, AL West)
FCI: $150.64 (5thin MLB)
If you like big beers and you cannot lie, you're probably not going to be impressed by the fact that the Rangers' Fan Cost Index increased by less than the league average this year. That's because Texas reduced the size of its smallest beer (a component of the FCI survey) in 2009 - which saved the club $3, but cost beer drinkers 12 precious ounces of golden refreshment. On the field, though, it's hard to find fault with a team that is tied for the MLB lead in home runs and ranks second in the AL in stolen-base percentage.
3. CINCINNATI REDS
Record: 39-38 (3rd, NL Central)
FCI: $144.76 (4th in MLB)
Sure, they're only a shade above .500 right now, but the Reds have some of the best young hurlers in the game, including the very talented, albeit inconsistent, 23-year-old starter Johnny Cueto and 27-year-old reliever Nick Masset, who seems to get better each year. Plus, the Reds offer some of the best deals on hot dogs and soda in all of professional baseball, according to TMR.
2. MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Record: 42-37 (1st, NL Central)
FCI: $145.92 (5th in MLB)
Although the Brewers did raise ticket prices in '09 following their first playoff berth in 26 seasons last year, the team's FCI is still the fifth lowest in the majors. Led by young, exciting players like 25-year-old, 268-pound slugging sensation Prince Fielder and 23-year-old pitcher Yovani Gallardo, the "Brew Crew" looks like a force to be reckoned with this year and in years to come - all for just $145.92 for a family of four.
1. LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Record: 43-34 (1st, AL West)
FCI: $141.18 (3rd in MLB)
This is definitely the best value in hardball thus far. Through July 3, the Angels lead the Major Leagues in batting average (.279), while ranking second in stolen bases (79), eighth in slugging percentage (.432) and seventh in runs scored (393). On the mound, 26-year-old Jered Weaver has become the team's ace following injuries to Ervin Santana (16-7, 3.49 ERA in 2008) and Kelvim Escobar, who is attempting to return to fulltime duty after missing all of last year with a torn shoulder.
Yet, despite all their success, the average Angels' ticket will set fans back just $20.05 in 2009, down 3.8% from last year when the squad won 100 games along with the AL West crown.
The Bottom Line
America's No.1 pastime doesn't have to be the No. 1 drain on your wallet - as it turns out, there are some great deals out there this year for baseball fans. (Looking for some more summer fun that won't break the bank? Check out Budget-Friendly Summer Fun.)