Cubs Defeat Astros In Front Of Thousands Of Empty Seats

Houston, TX, USA; A fan watches a game between the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park. Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

If you've ever wondered what Wrigley Field might have looked like in the early 1960s when the Cubs were bad and hardly anyone showed up, the late innings of Monday night's game in Houston gave you a pretty good idea.

Only a few hundred fans -- many of them yelling, loudly, "Let's go Cubbies!" -- stayed until the end of the Cubs' 4-1 win over the Astros. The Cubs' fourth win in a row tied a season high.

The boxscore link above shows attendance as 13,121, the Astros' second-smallest announced crowd of the season, but perhaps half that number were actually in the seats for most of the game. Even the Cubs' TV crew avoided showing shots of the empty stands unless they couldn't avoid doing so.

Len & Bob began talking about low-attended games back in the 1970s and mentioned one late-season game in Oakland in 1979 that had an announced attendance of 750. They wondered what the actual attendance was -- likely, 750, because in those days it was the actual turnstile count announced. There was actually one other 1979 A's game that drew even fewer than that -- 653 -- and I wrote a post here in 2006 detailing some Cubs games in the 1950s and 1960s where attendance was less than 1,000, including this September 21, 1966 game with attendance of 530. That's the lowest announced attendance at any game at Wrigley Field since at least the 1940s.

But wait! There's more!

Also in 1966, the New York Yankees finished last (10th, in those days) for the first time in franchise history, just two years after they finished a five-year run of consecutive AL pennants. On September 22, they played a makeup game against the White Sox after several days of rainouts in New York, in front of 413 people. The TV crew had been ordered not to show the empty stands, but broadcaster Red Barber said:

"I don't know what the paid attendance is today," he said, "but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium...and this crowd is the story, not the game."

A week later, the Yankees fired Barber.

No one's going to get fired over the small crowd at Monday's game, and perhaps you're wondering why it's taken me almost 400 words to mention anything other than the score. That's because it was a ridiculously long slog of a game: three hours, fifty minutes of mostly dull baseball. 336 pitches were thrown, 14 walks issued, three wild pitches thrown, two batters hit, and... no partridges in pear trees, but pretty much anything else you might think of, except good, crisply played major-league baseball.

Dave Sappelt hit a couple of doubles and drove in three runs, the latter two of which put the game away. Chris Volstad got another "win", although his five-inning, five-walk stint could only be charitably described as "good". Carlos Marmol posted his 19th save. Fernando Rodriguez was the losing pitcher, which means the combined won/lost records of the two pitchers of record in this game is 4-20.

Enough? Yeah, that's enough. The "crowd" won't likely be any larger at Tuesday night's game... or at the three games at Wrigley Field between these two teams that will end the season starting October 1.

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