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Sunday, October 15, 2006

On the 1906 World Series

Only one half of the 2006 World Series teams has been decided (Go Tigers!), and it's already October 15. The October 15, 1906 NYT reports on the Chicago White Sox beating the Chicago Cubs in the first intra-city world series, describing how the "Hitless Wonders" somehow took down Goliath; the 1906 Chicago Cubs went 116-36, for a .894 winning percentage (more here). The World Series ended much earlier in 1906 because there was only one official post-season series and there were fewer regular season games.

The article reports that total attendance during the six game series was 99,845 with total "receipts" being $105,540. The wording of the article suggests receipts" refers to the gate revenue, which was shared between the two teams. Thus, the average ticket to the 1906 World Series was approximately $1.

The folks at EH.net suggest that

In 2005, $1.00 from 1906 is worth:
$21.63 using the Consumer Price Index
$17.32 using the GDP deflator
$95.27 using the unskilled wage
$116.18 using the nominal GDP per capita
$402.45 using the relative share of GDP

From the Detroit Tigers website we learn that the face value of Tigers tickets for the regular season ranged from $5 to $60. These same tickets during the World Series will range from $75 to $250. In 1906 the World Series tickets were twice the regular season admission price.

There will be hand wringing and navel gazing about the high price for tickets on the secondary market (already tickets are for sale on stub hub and other brokerage sites). There will stories about how secondary markets are somehow unfair (to whom?). Others will be dismayed that the prices for tickets to a World Series game is so much more than a regular season game.

However, a comparison to the 1906 series, rather than the 2006 regular season, might prove somewhat insightful. Why are ticket prices so much higher (in real terms) than they were in 1906? After all, in many cases we find that the real price of sporting events haven't changed that much.

There are several reasons why real ticket prices for the World Series have increased over the past 100 years and they are almost all on the demand side. Improved quality of play, larger and more comfortable stadiums, larger city populations, a larger proportion of the population with more disposable income, and the "mega event" nature of the World Series games all contribute to an increased demand for World Series tickets relative to 1906.

Another issue in 2006 is the greater uncertainty that the teams in a particular Series will ever play in another Series during a fan's lifetime. The 1906 Series was only the third Series (as we know it today). Hence the droughts of the Red Sox, the White Sox, and the Cubs (and others) were all in the future and not a factor in the demand for 1906 tickets. However, when the Red Sox played in and won the Series in 2004 many folks in Boston likely said to themselves, "Heck, if I don't go now I'm never getting another chance." Ergo enhanced demand and higher ticket prices.

Some might wonder if there is an artificial shortage in the supply of (and hence the equilibrium quantity) of World Series tickets available today relative to 100 years ago. In 1906, the capacity of the White Sox stadium (South Side Ballpark) was 15,000 and the capacity of the Cubs stadium (West Side Grounds) was 16,000. Chicago's population in 1906 is estimated to be right under 2 million. Therefore, the stadium capacities reflected 0.75% for the Sox and 0.80% of the city's population at the time.

Comerica Park (Detroit's stadium) has a capacity of 40,950 (a bit more with standing room only) and the population of the Detroit metropolitan statistical area in 2005 was  4,488,335. Thus, Comerica park's capacity reflects 0.91% of the area's population, strikingly similar to the relative size of the stadiums in 1906. While there might be more baseball fans as a proportion of the population today than 100 years ago, the capacity of the stadium is not that much different than a hundred years ago.

This brings up a different question. If the relative size of stadiums hasn't increased dramatically over 100 years and the real price of tickets hasn't increased much over 100 years, this would suggest the relative demand of baseball hasn't changed much over 100 years. If the proportion of a city's population that were (paying) baseball fans had increased over time, either the relative size of the stadiums or the relative price of attendance should be increasing over time.

Finally, in contrast to the mega-event nature of the Series today, the six games in 1906 were played in straight succession, with no days off, no night games, and considerably less hype than the World Series 100 years later. The 1906 series started on a Tuesday and the first three games suffered reduced attendance, arguably because they were played during the work day. The two weekend games enjoyed the greatest attendance, but then the White Sox were also making a series of it. In contrast, most of the games in 2006 will be played at night when more people can attend and watch the game.

A final point is theincrease in the price of the cheapest tickets from $5 to $75 reflects a 1400% increase, whereas the $60 to $250 reflects a 318% increase in price. It seems that the willingness to pay for the cheap seats, perhaps purchased moreso by those on the lower part of the income distribution, increases much more dramatically (in percentage terms) than the willingness to pay amongst the expensive seats. What would this imply? The average cheap-seat purchaser is willing to pay a lot more (relatively speaking) to see a World Series game in Detroit than the average expensive-seat purchaser. Interesting.

Keep an eye out for the secondary market prices - this morning, shortly after ticket sales closed, the $90 and $150 seats for Game 1 and Game 2 were going for $800 a pair on eBay.

If the ticket prices are at all unfair, it's only to those people who are duped into believing they can actually get a ticket for $90. By and large, the vast majority of them cannot even come close to that price.
Link from your web site"http://heavylifting.blogspot.com/2006/10/on-1906-world-series.html" has been pointed out from Google that it is spam.

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VOAT Kobayashi


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