Wednesday, February 24, 2010

American Association Attendance Project

Thought it was time to give a quick run-down on the American Association attendance project I have underway concerning the early years of the American Association. Cumulative team data reflecting paid attendance for the years 1902-1907 were missing in the published league report, and with the exception of 1902 (I found attendance records in the Reach American Association Guide for that year), the remainder of the records are missing.

In order to obtain these records, a game-by-game listing of attendance figures must be collected and verified using comparative data from a variety of sources. This process has been rewarding, but it is laborious and time consuming. It promises to become even more so as time goes by. I am using microfilm at Wilson Library on the University of Minnesota campus.

Last summer I created a book proposal on the topic of the rivalry between the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints. The proposal described the importance of attendance patterns of the two teams. In December I set about compiling the attendance data and I am now midway through the 1907 season, having compiled records from four different sources. I originally was going to use only one source, but it soon became apparent how there really was no such thing as a verifiable number which one could look at and say, OK, there were 2,345 fans at the Saints game in St. Paul on August 18, 1902. A second source might easily give a different number. The project has evolved to include as many local sources from road games as I can put my hands on via interlibrary loan. So it takes me a few additional months (or years) to complete...

Now that I have the data entered for the 1902 St. Paul Saints, here's a brief summary of my findings. It includes home and away games and is largely complete.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press was a "reliable" record for the majority of the attendance figures for the 141-game 1902 season, reliable in the sense that it included data for 123 of 141 games, or 87%.

The Minneapolis Journal and Minneapolis Tribune were used to verify the figures used by the Pioneer Press. The process was straightforward. After compiling the data for every game from the Pioneer Press, I used the Tribune, compared the figures, listed them, and went on to the Journal with which I repeated the process. I will expand the list of newspapers used to for verification purposes to include the St. Paul Daily News, the St. Paul Dispatch, the St. Paul Globe and the Minneapolis Times. This will help establish a greater degree of reliability for each figure, as well as for the final annual total for both the team and the league.

As mentioned previously, 123 records were found in the Pioneer Press.
Seven records were found in the Minneapolis Journal which were not in the Pioneer Press.
Seven records were found in the Minneapolis Tribune which were not in the Pioneer Press.
Most often these combined 14 records included road games.

A combined 10 records from both the Minneapolis Journal and Tribune conflicted with the figure presented in the Pioneer Press. The nature of these conflicting records varied. The ranged from what appeared to be typos (e.g., 672 vs. 622) to unreliably distinct figures (e.g., 8,347 vs. 5,798).

Often, published figures were rounded, e.g., each figure ends in either one or two zeros. This tendency increased as time progressed; in fact, after 1902 attendance reporting became much less frequent, as papers would report the attendance for the home team and ignore the others (speaking here on the American Association alone).

At this time the St. Paul Saints played their weekday and Sunday games at Lexington Park. The largest verifiable figure for a home game at St. Paul in 1902 was found for the game of July 6 featuring the Millers and Saints. It was a Sunday game (Sundays were often a club's money maker) which was decided by a score of 1-0 in favor of Minneapolis.

The largest unverified attendance figure was reported in the Minneapolis Tribune for the game of May 18 (also a Sunday) against the Louisville Colonels. The Tribune reported 8,347 in attendance, while the Pioneer Press reported 5,798. I tend to support the notion that the local paper will be more reliable in such a case, but there are arguments both ways. This is an example of the need to look at several sources to determine which figure may be more accurate. It is also possible that both numbers were technically correct, as the latter figure may represent the seating capacity while the larger figure could include those who overflowed onto the playing field (a common practice at the time).

The smallest crowd at Lexington Park in 1902 came September 12 as the Saints hosted the Toledo Mud Hens. An attendance figure of 93 was reported for this Friday event. Could be the weather was bad. Imagine such a game going extra innings, as in all likelihood there may not have been anyone left by the time darkness finally descended! The Saints won, 8-6, in regulation.

The largest crowd drawn by the Saints on the road was in the early going at Indianapolis when 10,004 fans packed East Washington Street Park. The Indians went on to win the American Association championship in a nail-biter that year, the first season of the independent league's existence.

The Saints finished the season with a record of 72-67 in third place.