FanPost

Cubs' record crowds since 1901, Part 5

Fifth and last in a series of posts about the evolution of the Cubs' record for largest home crowd, from 1901 through 1929, when they attracted 51,000 for an early-season game against the Cardinals, a total unsurpassed to this day.

..........

There were 16 crowds in Major League Baseball last season that reached 50,000.

All were at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

The last -- 51,388, on Friday, Oct. 1 -- brought the total number of such crowds in the Modern Era to 3,237, based on data at baseball-reference.com and my research.

A basic search at the website for games with audiences of at least 50,000 results in a slightly higher number. It contains several errors, all involving doubleheaders, in which the 2 attendances are listed when a single admission actually was charged, or the total turnout for separate admissions is shown as the number for the second of the 2 games.

The site says the first crowd ever of 50,000 was for Game 2 of a Memorial Day doubleheader between the Giants and Robins (today's Dodgers) at the Polo Grounds on May 30, 1919.

In fact, according to multiple newspapers, there were 15,000 fans for the morning game, then 35,000 in the afternoon.

The actual largest crowd from 1901-22 was 46,000, for the opening game at Braves Field in Boston, on Aug. 18, 1915.

..........

YANKEES REIGN

That record stood until April 23, 1923, when another new park hosted its first game: Yankee Stadium, which attracted an astonishing 74,200 for its debut.

Through 2021, the Yankees have played in front of 817 throngs of at least 50,000, more than 100 more than the runnerup Dodgers, at 708.

The Yankees had 217 such crowds in 2006-08 alone: 70, 73 and 74, the latter still the most by a team in any season.

The Blue Jays had 71 in 1993. The most by the Dodgers was 39, in 2019.

Together, the Yankees and Dodgers account for nearly half of all 50,000-plus crowds -- 47.1 percent, to be precise.

The Blue Jays have had 252 such turnouts; the Mets, 246. Add those, and 4 teams have had 62.5 percent of the total.

Four more teams have had at least 100 crowds of 50,000 or more: the Guardians (157), Rockies (130), Giants (112) and Phillies (104).

Combined, those 8 teams have attracted 2,526 of the 3,237 biggest crowds, which is 78 percent.

..........

CUBS JUST ONCE

And then there are the Cubs.

Since 1901, they have played 9,471 home games.

Excluding a 2000 game in Tokyo in which the Cubs were designated as the home team, only 1 game took place in front of at least 50,000 fans.

The only other Major League team with a lone crowd of 50,000 is the Diamondbacks, who attracted 50,180 against the Dodgers on Aug. 31, 2019.

The Royals' biggest gathering was 42,039 for a doubleheader against the Brewers on Aug. 8, 1983.

The Marlins, Rays and Red Sox each have had 2 crowds that reached 50,000. The Rangers have had 9; the Pirates, 12; and all other teams, at least 21.

The White Sox have had 24, none since 1982.

...

Back in 1927, the Sox became the first team outside New York to lure 50,000 to a game, as 52,000 flocked to Comiskey Park to watch them lost to the Yankees, 9-0, on May 8.

Until that day, the count of 50,000-fan games stood at Yankees, 20; Giants, 4.

Through the end of 1928, the count was Yankees, 31; Giants, 9; White Sox 1.

..........

FIRST-SUNDAY SELLOUT

Tuesday, April 16, was Opening Day of 1929. The Cubs lost to the Pirates, 4-3, in front of 46,000. That was 2,000 below the record crowd that had seen the Cubs beat the Pirates on April 22, 1928. They had matched record 3 weeks later, when they defeated the Giants.

The April 22 crowd had come on the first Sunday of the season, making it 2 years in a row that the Cubs had set a high for attendance in their first Sunday game.

In 1929, they made it 3 in a row. And this time, they joined the 50,000 Club.

Their 4-0 victory over the Cardinals "was played before 51,000, a larger crowd than any ever assembled at Wrigley Field, according to the Cub counting room," Edward Burns wrote in the next day's Chicago Tribune.

It took only 1 hour and 43 minutes for the Cubs to win the game, as Guy Bush held the Cardinals to 3 hits, while Rogers Hornsby, acquired in the off season, had 4 of the Cubs' 8 hits.

"Rogers' perfect day lifted his batting average for the season to a cool .583," Burns noted, "causing the Wrigley auditors to move him up a couple of notches in the gum king's list of gilt edged investments."

Rogers would bat .380 for the season and lead the league in slugging (.679), OPS (1.139), OPS+ (178) and total bases (409). He would not win an eighth batting title, finishing behind Lefty O'Doul (.398) and Babe Herman (.381). But he would be voted the NL's Most Valuable Player for a second time, as the Cubs won the pennant for the first time since 1918 -- and by 10.5 games over the runnerup Pirates.

..........

HUGE INCREASE

"Despite inclement weather, the Cubs have made a running start toward a new National League attendance mark for Wrigley Field," the Associated Press pointed out after the record turnout on April 21. "In four games they have attracted 116,000 fans."

They ultimately lured 1,485,166 to their 72 home dates, which included 6 single-admission doubleheaders, for an average of 20,627.

The total was a whopping 341,426 more than the year before, an increase of just under 30 percent.

Only the Giants, with 868,806, drew even half as many fans as the Cubs. The Robins were third, with 731,886. No other team reached 500,000.

...

But none of the crowds after April 21 reached 50,000, nor has any crowd in all the years since.

Later in 1929, the Cubs played in front of 48,000 on Sunday, June 23, against the Pirates, then 48,000 again on Saturday, July 27, in a doubleheader against the Phillies.

Baseball-reference also lists 48,000 for a game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals on Labor Day -- Monday, Sept. 2.

But the 48,000 is listed for the morning game, followed by 44,000 in the afternoon, and morning games almost never outdrew those later in the day.

The Tribune says there were 38,000 for the first game, which seems more likely, and 43,000 for the second.

By season's end, 14 crowds had reached at least 40,000, which was 1 more than the total in all seasons prior to 1929.

..........

DEPRESSED BOX OFFICE

In 1930, the Cubs fell just 21,902 short of matching their record total attendance of the previous year. Then, as the Depression set in, the turnstile count plummeted by 377,702, or 26 percent. It fell below 1,000,000 in 1932 and did not reach 7 figures again until 1945.

And the 1929 mark of 1,485,166 ultimately would stand for 40 years, until 1,674,933 turned out in 1969.

...

The Cubs' largest crowd in 1930 was 45,000, achieved 4 times between Aug. 10 and 31.

In 1931, it also was 45,000, for doubleheaders in early July and late September.

A doubleheader against the Pirates on July 24, 1932, attracted 48,000.

During the next 3 seasons, there were crowds of precisely 47,138 (July 8, 1934), 46,168 (July 21, 1935) and 45,401 (Aug. 30, 1936). All were doubleheaders, the first against the Pirates and the later 2 against the Giants.

..........

REDUCED CAPACITY

Wrigley Field's capacity had been 40,000 since the addition of a second deck above the grand stand was completed between the seasons of 1927 and 1928.

In 1937, the park's bleachers were rebuilt, with concrete replacing wood, and the left field bleachers were extended toward the foul line. The work was not completed until Sept. 4, at which point the capacity became 38,396.

It continued to decline over ensuing seasons, to a low of 36,644 from 1965-71. Then it slowly rose again, finally topping 40,000 again in 2006, when it became 41,118. It is now 41,649.

..........

652 OF 40,000 OR MORE

During all 121 seasons of the Modern Era, the Cubs have attracted at least 40,000 fans to 652 games, exactly 600 of them since 1938. No. 652 was their only such crowd last season: 40,077 on Aug. 7 against the White Sox.

In 2015-19, they reached 40,000 on 194 dates, nearly 30 percent of all such crowds.

Their single-season best was 65 gatherings of at least 40,000 in 2008. They had 58 in both 2007 and 2016; 45 in 2009; 44 in both 2017 and 2018; and 35 in 2006.

Their most in any other season was 25, in 2015.

Last year was the 11th since 1938 in which they had only 1 crowd of 40,000. It was the first time since 1997.

Excluding 2020, when no fans were allowed in MLB parks, the Cubs have had at least 1 crowd of 40,000 every year since 1994. They had 2 that year -- their first since they had just 1 in 1984.

..........

FEWER BIG CROWDS

In 1938, en route to winning the pennant, the Cubs attracted 6 crowds of at least 40,000, the largest of them 43,223, for a July 23 doubleheader against the Giants.

In 1939, they had only 2, both for doubleheaders against the first-place Reds: 42,094 on July 2 and 40,887 on Aug. 9.

Then they had none during the next 4 seasons, 1940-43. The biggest crowd was 39,423 for a Fourth of July doubleheader against the Cardinals in 1941. No other gathering reached 39,000.

During those 4 seasons, the Cubs finished fifth twice and sixth twice, an average of 31 games out of first.

In 1944, they rose to fourth, but finished 30 games behind. Yet their total attendance climbed by 26 percent, from just over 500,000 to nearly 650,000.

More than one quarter of the 1944 total came on just 4 Sunday doubleheaders, 1 each between the 16th and 20th of June, July, August and September.

..........

RETURN OF BIG CROWDS

The Cubs' championship run in 1945 generated a huge spike in attendance, luring 1,036,386 fans, almost 400,000 more than the previous season. There were 10 throngs of at least 40,000, half of them topping 43,000. The biggest, 43,803 on July 15, was the largest crowd in nearly 9 years, since 45,401 on Aug. 30, 1936. Both of those turnouts were for doubleheaders against the Giants.

The 45,505 who watched 2 games on May 5, 1946, narrowly topped the 1936 high. So did the 45,615 for another doubleheader on July 21. The opponent both times was the Phillies.

In between, a Memorial Day twin bill against the Reds brought out 45,120, making a total of 3 crowds of at least 45,000 in a span of just 78 days.

In the 75 seasons since, there have been only 4 more.

..........

JACKIE COMES TO TOWN

The first was Sunday, May 18, 1947.

"The largest National League crowd that ever paid to see a game at Wrigley Field -- 46,572 cash guests -- yesterday jammed all available spaces to see Jackie Robinson, his fellow Dodgers and the Cubs," Edward Burns wrote in the Tribune.

It was the first game in Chicago for Robinson, who had broken Major League Baseball's "color line" when he made his debut at home against the Braves on April 15.

"Those who were rooting for the Dodgers as a team got the greatest satisfaction," Burns added, "for the Dodgers won, 4 to 2, with little help from Robinson and much help from the Cubs.

"The crowd, by the way, was the second largest in the history of Wrigley Field for a league game, being topped only by the gathering of 51,556 in 1930, under the old bleacher setup, when overflow field crowds were tolerated. That crowd, however, included 30,476 ladies day crasherettes."

Yes, "crasherettes."

Burns' reference was to a game between the Cubs and Cardinals on Friday, June 27, 1930. As women were admitted free on Ladies Day, they were not counted in the official attendance for such games. Baseball-reference.com lists the attendance that day as 20,000.

The throng that welcomed Robinson to Wrigley Field was 1,600 more than at any other game in 1947: 44,954 for a Fourth of July doubleheader against the Cardinals. Only 1 other game reached 40,000: 41,120 for Robinson and the Dodgers on Aug. 3.

..........

HOLIDAY HORDE

A Memorial Day doubleheader against the Pirates in 1948 drew 46,965, or 393 more than for Robinson's debut, so another record for a paid crowd.

Exactly 3 months later, that record was broken again, as 47,171 flocked to the park on Sunday, Aug. 31, to see 2 games against the Dodgers.

At least, Baseball-reference.com says there were 47,171 spectators. Edward Prell, in the Tribune, says it was 45,531.

..........

LAST OF 45,000

Either way, the Cubs have had only 1 more crowd that reached 45,000. It happened on Friday, April 14, 1978, in the Cubs' first home game of the season.

After the Cubs tied the game at 4 on a 2-out RBI double in the eighth, Larry Biittner thrilled the 45,777 on hand by leading off the ninth with a home run.

Since that day, the Cubs' largest home crowd has been 42,374, on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, when they defeated the Cardinals, 3-0.

They last drew at least 42,000 on Sept. 3, 2017, when they lost to the Braves, 5-1.

There were 7 crowds in 2019 that ranged from 41,005 to 41,192. The last was 41,179, on Aug. 7, when the Cubs routed the Athletics, 10-1.

..........

EVOLUTION OF CUBS' BIGGEST CROWDS

Here are the Cubs' record-setting home crowds during the Modern Era:

28,000: May 20, 1906 vs. Giants (surpassed 27,489 on April 30, 1899)

30,000: June 5, 1907 vs. Giants

30,247: Oct. 4, 1908 vs. Pirates

35,000: Sept. 16, 1909 vs. Giants

37,000: April 22, 1923 vs. Cardinals

40,536: May 30, 1924 vs. Reds (doubleheader)

42,000: April 12, 1927 vs. Cardinals

45,000: April 17, 1927 vs. Pirates (tied June 12, 1927 vs. Giants)

46,000: April 18, 1928 vs. Reds

48,000: April 22, 1928 vs. Pirates (tied May 13, 1928 vs. Giants)

51,000: April 21, 1929 vs. Cardinals

..........

NUMBER OF CROWDS OF AT LEAST 50,000

Here is how many crowds of at least 50,000 that each Major League team has had since 1901:

817: Yankees

708: Dodgers

252: Blue Jays

246: Mets

157: Guardians

130: Rockies

112: Giants (57 in New York, 55 in San Francisco)

104: Phillies

96: Tigers

90: Padres

...

86: Reds

59: Mariners

54: Brewers

46: Braves (1 in Boston, 45 in Atlanta)

49: Angels

34: Twins

30: Orioles

29: Expos

27: Cardinals

26: Athletics (all in Oakland)

...

24: White Sox

21: Astros

12: Pirates

9: Rangers

2: Red Sox

2: Marlins

2: Rays

1: Cubs

1: Diamondbacks

0: Royals

FanPosts are written by readers of Bleed Cubbie Blue, and as such do not reflect the views of SB Nation or Vox Media, nor is the content endorsed by SB Nation, Vox Media or Al Yellon, managing editor of Bleed Cubbie Blue or reviewed prior to posting.