Philadelphia Inquirer - June 24, 1980
Good and bad news in Phils attendance: draw high, but down
By Gail Shister, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Phillies home attendance this season is like a sword: double-edged.
On one hand, they are averaging 30,629 fans at the Vet, second-highest per-game average in the major leagues this season. Through 33 dates in 1980, the Phillies drew 1,016,753 fans. Through the same number of dates in 1979, the figure was 1,227,008.
Though their average attendance has been climbing at a rate of roughly 3,000 a month, the Phillies are lagging far behind last year's per-game pace, which was the best in the club's history. June is shaping up to be their cruelest month, comparing this year with last, with each date this year attracting almost 9,000 fewer fans than last year.
Still, only two clubs in baseball – California and Los Angeles – can boast higher total attendance figures this year than the Phillies. And only one, the Dodgers, has a higher per-game attendance figure this year.
If Phils executive vice president Bill Giles is worried about the figures, he's certainly not showing it.
"The thing a lot of people forget is that attendance this year is higher than any other year except 1979," he said. "We're running 6,904 fans ahead of our 1978 pace, which was our second largest year.
"We drew so well last year (2,775,011 fans) for a variety of reasons. It was Pete Rose's first season with us, and he got tremendous publicity. We started out playing well. People believed that the Phillies of 1979 may have been the best team in the history of the Phillies. There was so much excitement, so much publicity."
The excitement died about the same time the Phillies did, in August, when they began their nosedive to finish fourth in the division.
"We were kind of struggling in the first few months (this season,)" Giles said. "There wasn't nearly as much enthusiasm as back then."
The proposed player strike, which came within hours of reality, also has contributed to this year's sagging attendance, Giles said.
"As soon as the players announced on April 2 that they would strike on May 22, our advance and group sales dropped to almost nothing. People weren't willing to spend money on the chance the players would strike."
Spending money is a sensitive issue in today's recession, but Giles says he believes baseball is still cheap enough for the average fan.
"Historically, baseball has done pretty well during depressions and recessions. People want to go out and do something. Baseball is one of the least expensive forms of entertainment around. I don't believe people will cut back with baseball."
National statistics bear out Giles' view.
Overall attendance in the major leagues is up 2.6 percent this year. A total of 14,663,087 fans attended games through June 15, an average of 20,032 a date.
The National League, however, is actually 11,204 fans – .16 percent behind last year's pace, despite the phenomenal increase of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have drawn 301,066 more fans than during the same period last year.
American League figures are running 5.5 percent higher than last year's. The Angels (1,064,617 attendance in 35 dates) have the highest total draw in baseball this year, but their per-game figure is somewhat below that of the Phillies. Billy Martin's miracle A's in Oakland have contributed the biggest total increase 285,533 fans to the league.
Giles said he was willing to concede a deficit of between 200,000 and 250,000 fans until mid-August, when he thinks the team, if it's is doing well, or if some exciting thing is happening, like Schmidt hitting home runs or Carlton pitching well, can do it.
"The more we win, the more we draw. After winning the division three straight years, a lot of people were disappointed with our finish last year. Plus we were mediocre the first few months this season."
Winning doesn't necessarily guarantee a good house with the Phillies, judging by last year's figures. The team drew its highest average 42,596 in June, when it had a 12-16 record. In September, however, when they were out of the race, the Phillies averaged only 24,191, despite an 18-11 record.
"I'm not worried," Giles said. "We anticipated being down (in attendance) about 10 percent this year because our season tickets were down almost the same percentage (from 19,400 to 18,200.) One figure is usually an accurate projection of the other."
The Expos are coming
After a week of playing on the West Coast, the Phillies return to the Vet tonight to meet the first-place Montreal Expos (Channel 17, 7:35 p.m.).
Dickie Noles will be going after his first win of the season for the Phils against the Expos’ David Palmer.
PHILLIES vs. Montreal at Veterans Stadium (TV-Ch. 17; Radio-KYW-1060, 7:35 p.m.)
There’s more than one way to pick All-Stars
By Jayson Stark On Baseball
There really is nothing wrong with letting fans pick baseball's all-star teams. At the very least, filling out ballots gives people an alternative to having to watch Larvell Blanks play third base. So it isn't all bad.
The only true problem with fan-voting is that it is too predictable. You know Steve Garvey is going to win at first base. Anybody with more than three Tonight Show appearances is a lock.
You don't know Bobby Bonds is going to win. But you know he is going to get a lot of votes. He has to. He has played in practically every city in America. People have heard of him, at least.
And that's more than you can say for guys such as Andre Dawson, who has no shot at all. Dawson's problem is, not only has he played in only one city (Montreal), that city isn't even in the United States. People in Texas probably think he skates right wing for the Canadiens.
If baseball really wanted to make balloting interesting, it would assign voting rights to a different group each year. How about letting umpires pick the team some year? No doubt that would cut down on the rhubarb scene a little.
Or why not allow just agents to vote one year? This sets up the possibility of having two whole teams stocked completely with Jerry Kapstein clients or something. But heck, nobody with a lightweight agent belongs in a modern-day all-star game anyway.
In future years, polling could be spread around to such groups as clubhouse attendants (all-neat teams), usherettes (all-handsome teams), general managers (all-low-paid teams), broadcasters (all-easy-to-pronounce teams), trainers (all-healthy teams) and writers (all-quotable teams.) But basically, it would ease the frustrations baseball writers sometimes feel when Davey Lopes gets five times as many votes as Manny Trillo. Or Bonds gets more votes than Dawson, Jose Cruz and Jack Clark combined.
But none of that seems imminent. So, since there are still two days left in which to sway some voters, here are one writer's nominations for who ought to be starting in this year's game:
FIRST BASE: Steve Garvey is going to win, and maybe he should. But the instinct here is to go for St. Louis' Keith Hernandez until somebody finally learns to appreciate him. Garvey has gotten twice as many votes. But Hernandez is a better defensive first baseman, has more runs produced and is batting .335. How many times does a guy have to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated anyhow? Honorable mention to Pete Rose, Dan Driessen and Chris Cham-bliss.
SECOND BASE: This is the travesty of the year. Lopes is hitting .233 (.190 since May 1), has stopped stealing bases and brooded when Tom Lasorda let Rudy Law bat leadoff. Meanwhile, Trillo has never had a better year with the bat and has always been the most charismatic glove man around. Trillo's theory on why Lopes led him by 801,000 votes last week is that there are three big league teams in Southern California and only one in Philadelphia. Trillo is big in Caracas, too, but there are no teams there. Trillo deserves to start, and he might not even get to go if Chuck Tanner chooses Phil Garner to back up Lopes.
SHORTSTOP: Bobby Wine would vote for L. A.'s Bill Russell, who is hitting .284 and is not as awful defensively as he is made out to be. But Garry Templeton (.302, 83 hits already, 63 runs produced) is such an imposing offensive force that he deserves to start. Larry Bowa, even in what has not been his best year, has moved into second place in the latest returns. The biggest injustice is that Dave Concepcion has gotten twice as many votes as the Cubs' Ivan DeJesus.
THIRD BASE: Nobody in baseball is having a better off-year than the Dodgers' Ron Cey. It's those Southern California precincts again. If anybody should be crowding the Phils' Mike Schmidt, it is Ray Knight, who has almost enabled Cincinnati to overcome dismal years by Johnny Bench, George Foster and Concepcion. The rankings ought to be: Schmidt, Knight, Ken Reitz, then Cey.
CATCHER: As of last Monday, the Dodgers' Steve Yeager had 14 hits and more than a half-million votes. That's a record 38,000 votes per hit. Who does his P. R.? Meanwhile in the real world, a few Phillies polled were split between Montreal's Gary Carter and St. Louis' Ted Simmons, who led Cincinnati's Johnny Bench in tabulations released yesterday. Carter has slumped to .236 but has 13 homers and 36 RBIs for a team that has had a lot of its major run-producers hurt. The people who lean toward him, though, do so for his defense. Simmons is having one of his standard .289, 37-RBI years. But last year, when he was selected to start, he got hurt and couldn't play but showed up anyway. So he gets this vote.
OUTFIELD: You can't leave off George Hendrick (.299, 52 RBIs). You can't leave off Reggie Smith (.333, 44 RBIs), even though he insists he will refuse to play, even if chosen to start. The trouble is, there are at least nine other guys having all-star caliber years.
Dawson, Cruz and Clark all are having great seasons, and they weren't even in the top 16 in last week's returns. The leading candidates in the tally released yesterday were Pittsburgh's Dave Parker, followed by Greg Luzinski and the Cubs' Dave Kingman. You could make a strong case for Luzinski, but how do you choose him over Dusty Baker, who has almost identical stats?
Dave Winfield isn't having an extraordinary season, but he is still around .280 and 40 RBIs. Then there are people in the Bake McBride, Ken Griffey, Cesar Cedeno category all hitting around .300, doing what they get paid to do. But the vote here is for Dawson, because 1) he is generally underappreciated and 2) except for Schmidt, hardly any non-pitcher has meant more to his team. Very close honorable mention to Luzinski, Baker and Clark.
NOTES: If Dickie Noles can continue to dodge suspension, he will start against the Expos' David Palmer (4-1) tonight. If not, it probably will be Dan Larson or Bob Walk. Noles says his problems in his start in L. A. were not leave-the-bullpen orientation problems. "If anything," he said, "I was too hyped up about starting."... In an April relief outing against Montreal, Noles fanned six Expos in one turn through the batting order.... Luzinski has hit .151 on the road this year, .350 at the Vet. The Bull thinks it is because he is more used to the way the light hits his new glasses at home than he is away Assuming Dallas Green doesn't have to revise the rotation, it will be Bob Walk (2-0) vs. rookie Bill Gullickson (0-1) tomorrow and Randy Lerch (2-9) vs. Scott Sanderson (6-4) Thursday.