Yesterday we took a look at the 1984 Brewers. It was a great year for humanity as I was brought into the world. However it was a terrible season for the Brewers. The previous season was much better though. In fact the 1983 Brewers were well above .500 with an 87-75 record. What's really interesting to me, though, is the attendance for that year.
Milwaukee enjoyed their highest attendance level of the entire decade during the 1983 season: 2,397,131. They weren't particularly close to making the postseason at any point that year. They finished fifth, 11 games back of first place. I took a look back at the monthly standings and they did get kind of close in August. By the end of the month they were just 3.5 games. But they weren't that close at any other point after April that year and by the end of September were 12 games out.
While one could argue there were points earlier in the season the Brewers looked like they might have a chance to the optimist, that doesn't really explain their surge in attendance. To that point in franchise history--starting with the Seattle Pilots in 1969--they never broke 2,000,000 in attendance. They wouldn't get to that level again until 2001 when the opening of Miller Park drew 2,811,041.
The 1987 Brewers ended their season with a 91-71 record but had to settle for 1,909,244 in attendance. They drew 1,857,314 in 1992 when they finished with an even better 92-70 record. In 1988 they finished with the exact record they earned in 1983 but still drew south of 2 million: 1,923,238. This is more evidence that in-season performance alone cannot entirely explain how the Brewers were able to break that 2 million attendance threshold.
By now I'm sure some of you have probably guessed what drove attendance in 1983. It was less to do with how much hope the fanbase was able to derive from monthly performance/record and more to do with the 1982 Brewers. I'll write more about that team tomorrow. But all Brewers fans surely know that was the best season in franchise history.
That team finished with a 95-67 record to take first place in the AL East. They won the AL Championship series and then battled the Cardinals to a seventh World Series game before ultimately falling just short of winning. Their attendance that year? Just under 2 million at 1,978,896.
What's less talked about is the 1981 season. They played in the postseason then too. But there is an asterisk. It was a strike shortened season. The Brewers finished 67-47. They fell to the Yankees in the AL East Division Series. But it was still the playoffs--a first for the franchise.
So two playoff years in a row is what helped propel the 1983 Brewers attendance well over 2 million for the first time in franchise history and the only time in the 20th century. I imagine that's a part of the hope in rebuilding this team. We've seen now how year after year of almost competing has impacted attendance. It's not been bad.
They've had over 2 million every year since 2004. But the new mark is 3 million which they've only reached in 2008, a playoff year, 2009, following a playoff year, and 2011, a playoff year. By rebuilding they hope to add to the number of playoffs and thereby also adding to the number of years with 3 million in attendance.
The rebuilding process has already begun and I hear a lot about how the attendance will fare during those year. I couldn't care less. And I'm sure the Brewers share that sentiment--to a point. They're thinking about the attendance during their playoff years. Because that's what really matters.