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Saturday, November 03, 2012

HHS: Autin: Vida Blue and 1971 attendance, revisited

A funky ride through baseball attendance, if ever.

In a recent post, I debunked a published quote by Vida Blue complaining that his 1971 home starts had been juggled so as to coincide with Monday’s Family Night promotion. Now I’m reading Dan Epstein’s joyous Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s. Touching on Blue’s 1972 contract holdout, Epstein writes that Blue in ’71 had been “drawing thousands of extra fans, at home or on the road, whenever he pitched.”

Although the prior post focused on the Family Night question, I also remarked that “the notion of a pitcher boosting attendance is usually bunk, and there’s little reason to think differently in this case,” adding that “the 3 biggest home crowds came to see Catfish Hunter (twice) and Blue Moon Odom.”

I should have looked more deeply, or else left that question alone. Vida Blue in 1971 averaged much bigger crowds than any other A’s starter, even the reigning ace and 3-time All-Star Hunter, who had a fine year himself (21-11, 2.96).

...So while the vast majority of attendance claims for star pitchers aren’t worth a rain check from a completed game, Vida Blue was definitely a huge draw in 1971 — just as another young Golden State southpaw would become ten years later. And your humble narrator is duly … humbled.

Repoz Posted: November 03, 2012 at 08:54 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. Empathy, I Promise You (SBB) Posted: November 03, 2012 at 09:20 AM (#4291521)
Mark Fidrych was also a massive pre-mallpark draw.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 03, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4291568)
Did someone record a song like this about Catfish Hunter during the 1971 season? No they did not.
   3. TerpNats Posted: November 03, 2012 at 10:47 AM (#4291569)
When the A's visited Washington in June 1971, at the peak of Vidamania, Blue pitched on Sunday -- traditionally a fundraiser for Children's Hospital -- and RFK was close to a sellout. (I know; I was there.)
   4. Flynn Posted: November 03, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4291613)
So what happened after 1971?

312 innings on a 22 year old + plumbing executive + blow = solid pitcher, no more? In 1971 I'm sure we'd have been predicting Vida for the Hall of Fame.
   5. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 03, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4291631)
The thought of going to an A's-Senators game in 1971 makes my mouth water.
   6. Empathy, I Promise You (SBB) Posted: November 03, 2012 at 12:57 PM (#4291641)
I went to a A's - Tigers game in 1971. Spoke (*) to Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek, who were doing the Game of the Week broadcast for NBC, outside the stadium before the game. A's were sporting their sweet vest uniforms the year before they went pullover.

Turns out the next day was a doubleheader and Vida pitched. That probably would have been the way to go ....

(*) A relative term, given that I was 7. One or both of them shook my hand; that I remember.
   7. Bruce Markusen Posted: November 03, 2012 at 01:38 PM (#4291696)
Interesting lineup from that game, Sugar Bear. Aurelio Rodriguez batting leadoff for the Tigers!
   8. adenzeno Posted: November 03, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4291706)
I remember the Blue mania that was in 71. I was just starting to play/love baseball and remember the newspaper articles that talked about the crowds..
   9. GregQ Posted: November 03, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4291741)
I was just entering high school that year and we used to get a friend's older brother to drive us up to A's games. One thing that was really different then was that we could get to the locker room door, and once got in, to get autographs. I have Hunters after a game that he threw a shutout and one from Campy Campaneris from that era.
   10. Empathy, I Promise You (SBB) Posted: November 03, 2012 at 02:50 PM (#4291801)
I was just entering high school that year and we used to get a friend's older brother to drive us up to A's games. One thing that was really different then was that we could get to the locker room door, and once got in, to get autographs. I have Hunters after a game that he threw a shutout and one from Campy Campaneris from that era.

Yeah, but you could have been a terrorist. Thank God that heinous hole in our security has now been plugged.
   11. McCoy Posted: November 03, 2012 at 02:52 PM (#4291805)
Did you ask Campy to hit two home runs for you?
   12. Walt Davis Posted: November 03, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4291890)
So while the vast majority of attendance claims for star pitchers aren’t worth a rain check from a completed game

I'm a bit surprised by this. OK, sure, most any story in baseball is hokum. But back in the day when a big chunk of ticket sales were day-of-the-game walk-up sales, I'd be surprised if the starting pitcher didn't have an effect. Probably not as big an effect as the weather but still a big effect. These days with most tickets sold well in advance I can see that there would be no effect.
   13. fra paolo Posted: November 03, 2012 at 07:37 PM (#4292083)
Turns out the next day was a doubleheader and Vida pitched.

I might have gone to that one. It depends whether there were any other Sunday visits by the Athletics to Detroit that season. Sundays were a good day to get autographs from the players as they boarded the bus to the airport at the end of their visit, and I know that in 1971 I got a lot of A's autographs (not Blue's, although I did try) one Sunday.
   14. SM Posted: November 03, 2012 at 07:39 PM (#4292087)
I know Bill James wrote an essay in one of the 80s Abstracts arguing that there was no attendance boost for star pitchers. There's probably been a more recent study of it than that, though.
   15. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2012 at 08:15 PM (#4292121)
The thought of going to an A's-Senators game in 1971 makes my mouth water.

You could have seen Blue pitch against the Senators on Opening Day at RFK. Blue lasted 1.1 innings and the Senators won 8 to 0. That was Blue's last loss until May 28th at Fenway. Between those two losses, he went 10 and 0 in 11 starts, with 10 complete games and an ERA of 0.96.

His year ended on a down note, though, when he blew a late inning lead in Baltimore in game 1 of the ALCS, and the A's went on to get swept.
   16. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 03, 2012 at 08:20 PM (#4292125)
I remember the Blue mania that was in 71. I was just starting to play/love baseball and remember the newspaper articles that talked about the crowds.

First time I saw Blue was in his 3rd start in the Majors, in August of 1969 in Oakland against the Red Sox. He got knocked out in the 5th inning, and the main thing I remember was that this 300 pound guy who was sitting near me in the 3rd deck kept shouting out "To the showers with you, Blue! And that goes for you, too!" He was on Blue's case from the first pitch of the game, though I have no idea why.

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