Skip to main content

I know that many members of our community are passionate about both the game, and the history of the game. Last winter, SP_son did a statistical analysis to measure the impact of the introduction of the Live Ball Era on the MLB game and attendance, as his submission for the Science Fair.

We have shared this with some friends who enjoy the history of the game, and studying the numbers behind the game; and with some prompting, I post a link to the report for those of you who might enjoy it.

We often say that "Offense sells tickets, and defense wins championships." Well, I think SP_son's research certainly proved the first half of this maxim to be correct.

For those of you who are so inclined, please enjoy:

The Impact of the Live Ball Era on Baseball
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Southpaw Dad,
Excellent report by your son! I really enjoyed looking over his graphs and comparisons of attendance with various offensive output. You may have gathered from some of my posts before that I am really into the historical aspects of baseball and I enjoy the fact that a young man would take the time and do the research necessary to support his premise that attendance directly correlates to offensive production starting in the Live Ball Era. A few of my thought on the subject matter he covered:

I've always felt the Live Ball Era essentially began a year earlier than most experts as most of the trends were already on the way up by 1919 even before the rule changes of 1920 were enacted. However this is just my personal preference and your son points out his reasons for feeling it began in 1920.

Most people don't know that while the any new spitballers were banned in 1920, two pitchers per team were "grandfathered" and allowed to throw it legally for the rest of their major league careers with Burleigh Grimes being the last to retire in the mid 1930's. Minor leaguers who relied on that pitch, including some 200 game winners were out of luck and destined to never see the light of the Major Leagues.

One slight error is that the throwing of the 1919 World Series did not come to light until the last week of the 1920 season and while this directly affected the 1920 season finish, the owners did not liven up the offense in 1920 as a direct result of the throwing of the 1919 World Series because it wasn't known for sure the Series had been thrown until the last week of the 1920 season.

I have always agreed with the idea about attendance correlating with offense and your son did an excellent job of proving his point! Just look at how attendance records were being broken yearly up to the 1994 strike as offense was increasing and then an offensive explosion brought attendance back up after the strike just as your son stated. During the 1960's attendance was declining in many markets as offense declined and the more offensive minded football took over as perhaps America's favorite sport.
Thanks 3B for the nice comments, and the insights. Personally, I did not know a lot about this subject before David took it on. I learned a lot as he was going through pulling his research together, and arriving at his conclusions.

As you say, the throwing of the 1919 series was not fully revealed until the end of the 1920 season, but the newspaper articles he found from the winter of 1919-20 seemed to clearly indicate that the problem was common knowledge, and that the owners were actively seeking to add offense to the game in 1920 with the rule changes, almost as a preemptive strike, and a way to change the conversation. What surprised me most was that there was really very little done to the ball ... that the "Live Ball" was primarily a product of rule changes.

The other thing that really struck me were the trend lines spanning each era. Many of the trend lines from 1910-1919 and from 1920-1929 were not dramatically different in slope, but then there was this big jump in 1920. It was almost as if the new rules in 1920 were an adrenalin boost to the game, that gave a new starting point from which the historical trends carried forward ... without the peaks and valleys.

It was fun to see how he threw himself into the study, and to learn so much about this pivotal point in the history of the game. The other cool part was seeing one of the judges (an executive at a DC think tank) slip him a business card and ask him if he might like a summer internship. At 15, he was too young, and it would have conflicted with his baseball schedule Smile
The spitball really had nothing to do with Chapman's death as Carl Mays was a submarining pitcher who was known for throwing in on batters . Chapman apparently froze when the pitch came up and in.


With the new prominence of statistical analysis in baseball decisions your son may have a future in a Major League front office. If he can write such a thorough report at such a young age, he certainly shows a lot of promise and some sort of internship could lead to bigger and better things.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.