Ryczek: Hard times: Baseball in the 1930s

From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on January 12, 2017:

Over the centuries, we have softened the words used to describe periods of financial distress. In the nineteenth century we called them “Panics,” in the twentieth they were “Depressions,” and in the twenty-first we refer to them by the benign “Corrections.” No matter what they’re called, the result is usually the same. People lose their jobs and businesses fail.

One of the businesses that failed in 1931, two years into the Great Depression, was the Negro National League. Rube Foster died in 1930, after a debilitating illness. Without his leadership, the league was unable to survive. The Eastern Colored League had disbanded in 1928, and without any organized leagues, black teams became barnstorming organizations.

The white Major Leagues didn’t fail, but they didn’t prosper. The Boston Red Sox lost money every year during the decade, reportedly as much as $500,000 in a single season. The St. Louis Browns drew just 88,000 fans in 1933 and 80,000 two years later. The Yankees, who’d broken the million mark eight times the previous decade, couldn’t do it once during the ’30s. The Cardinals won the World Series in 1934 and drew just 325,000 fans, less than 5,000 per game. With revenue down, salaries had to be reduced, from an average of $7,500 in 1929 to $6,000 in 1933.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/hard-times

Originally published: January 12, 2017. Last Updated: January 12, 2017.