Oakland has outperformed S.F. when owners, parks were equal

A’s attendance at the Coliseum is much stronger and more positive than the common perception. Yes, we want the A’s to get a new ballpark and there have been ups and downs over the decades for the A’s, just like the vast majority of MLB franchises. But if your argument is the A’s must leave Oakland because attendance is not ideal right now, then you would be moving about 2/3 of MLB teams at various times in their history.

Even the Giants, who are riding high right now? … you might ask. Our answer: ESPECIALLY the Giants. That’s because when the A’s and Giants shared the Bay Area market from 1968-99 and enjoyed mostly equal footing with their respective owners and stadiums, Oakland clearly outperformed San Francisco at the box office. In fact, from ’68 to ’92, it wasn’t even close, as the A’s outdrew the Giants in 17 out of 25 seasons (17 to 8).
Why do we care?
It’s important to note that anyone criticizing Oakland for its attendance history is not accurate. They are distorting the statistics by looking at A’s attendance in an extremely (and perhaps intentional) narrow vacuum. No, the more accurate answer is found by studying the issue in its proper context — that is, the history of Oakland AND San Francisco attendance when nearly all things were equal between the two teams’ ownership groups and their once-similar multipurpose stadiums while sharing the same market. In other words, the 1968-99 era.
We first looked at this issue with a blog entry last September. Here’s a second look at the key stats:
The Giants’ attendance from 1968 to 1999 was remarkably awful. For single seasons, the Giants:

  • Drew more than 2 million fans only three times.
  • Drew above the National League average only once.
  • Drew above the National League median only twice.
  • Never drew better than 4th among National League teams, and they did that only once.
  • Finished in the bottom third among National League teams in 23 of 32 seasons.
  • Finished at least third-to-last among National League teams in 15 of 32 seasons.

By comparison, from 1968 to 1999, the A’s:

  • Drew more than 2 million fans six times. (Twice as many times as the Giants)
  • Drew above the American League average six times (Much better than what the Giants did in the National League)
  • Drew above the American League median at least seven times. (NOTE: You could argue it occurred nine times, but in two seasons, they’re just slightly above the borderline, so to be generous, we’ll toss those seasons out. Seven times is still way more than what the Giants achieved in the National League.)
  • Outdrew the Giants 17-15 in those 32 seasons, and outdrew the Giants 17-8 in the first 25 seasons they shared this market.
  • Drew 2.9 million fans in 1990, setting a Bay Area single-season attendance record that held for a decade. The New York Yankees did not reach that milestone until 1998, eight years AFTER Oakland accomplished this.
The point is, if the Giants can go from being one of the worst MLB franchises in attendance to one of the best — almost overnight — then so can the A’s in Oakland. After all, the Giants’ attendance was mostly awful for more than 30 years in San Francisco, until they moved to their new ballpark in 2000. Yet, the Giants owners took a leap of faith that paid off beautifully for them.
Given the statistics noted above, the same thing could easily happen for the A’s in Oakland. That marriage between pro baseball teams and the city of Oakland should be celebrated, not discarded like a pair of old Herb Washington cleats.Oakland’s baseball tradition goes way back to the late 19th Century (the Wide Awakes, and the Colonels) and through the early 20th Century (the Oaks, and the Larks) to the Oakland Athletics of the last four-plus decades.
In short, in a sport that thrives on tradition and nostalgia, there is absolutely no reason to throw away 45 sensational years of great tradition and green-and-gold flavored nostalgia of A’s baseball in Oakland.

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