Will the MLB lockout affect Detroit Tigers attendance?

Detroit Tigers lost 13-10 to Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park in Detroit, Thursday, August 19, 2021.
Detroit Tigers lost 13-10 to Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park in Detroit, Thursday, August 19, 2021. /

The MLB Players Association and the owners are meeting on Saturday to come to a resolution about the lockout. If that is the case, for the Detroit Tigers and their fans, it will be in the nick of time.

It is an obvious statement that any work stoppage for a professional sports team never sits well with the fanbase. Some will not renew their season tickets, while others may not watch them on television or a streaming service. For the Detroit Tigers, after an exciting season in which they were able to finish better than expected, you can sense the players want to go back out there and build on 2021.

Important Detroit Tigers year to remember: 1972

This is the ninth work stoppage in MLB history, with the first being in 1972. We are going to look at the three seasons in which there were games missed, which would be in 1972, 1981, and 1994. There were 86 total games missed in 1972, when the players wanted an increase in their pension.

1972 Pension Strike
1972 Pension Strike 02 Apr 1972, Sun Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com /

Then Tigers manager Billy Martin on how it was a “nightmare”:

Billy Martin 1972
Billy Martin 1972 02 Apr 1972, Sun Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com /

The Tigers were oldest team in the American League that year, and they would eventually edge out the Boston Red Sox by half a game to capture the AL East crown — the first one in team history since the division setup was established in 1969. On October 3rd, in front of a packed house of 54,079 people, Woody Fryman, whom the Tigers had claimed on waivers in early August, outdueled right-hander Luis Tiant, who had gone 11-1 down the stretch for Boston.

The Tigers lead the American League in attendance. However, the fans showed their disgust with the work stoppage early in the season, as attendance after the first four home games was down significantly from 1971, with some crowds being under

10,000 for a stretch in May.

Detroit attendance 1972
Detroit attendance 1972 07 May 1972, Sun Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com /

Important Detroit Tigers year to remember: 1981

This strike came in the middle of the season, and it lasted from June 12th until July 31st. It was about free agent compensation, as the owners wanted to set up a structure that would allow them some sort of compensation when they lost a player in free agency. In May 1980, both sides came upon a last-minute agreement as they worked on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Some issues arose, and the situation came to a boil in the summer of 1981. As a result, there were 713 games canceled.

It was a critical hit for baseball, as attendance was up from the previous season. The Tigers’ last game before the strike was on June 11th, as Dan Petry won his fourth game of the season in a  7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins. When the season resumed on August 10th, Detroit was in third place, just 3.5 games back of the Yankees.

The Tigers made it entertaining down the stretch. They were up by one game in the AL East as late as September 22nd, then tied for the division lead with a 14-0 drubbing of Baltimore at home in front of 31,204 fans on September 29th. They fell back down by a game after a dramatic extra-inning loss to the Orioles the next day, and then headed to Milwaukee for a crucial three-game set against the division leaders.

Unfortunately, the Tigers dropped the first two games of the series and the Brewers took the division title. But, Detroit was the second youngest team in the American League behind Toronto, and their young core was exciting enough for the club to finish 5th in attendance.

The Tigers gave the fanbase something to look forward to in 1982.

Important Detroit Tigers years to remember: 1994-95

This strike was ugliest of them all, for several reasons. It began August 11th, 1994, when the Tigers were 53-62 and 18 games out of first place in the AL East, and it lasted for the rest of the season. Opening Day that year drew a crowd of 50,314, but after that, the highest drawing game came on June 18th against the Blue Jays, who were the defending World Series champions.

Detroit had finished 3rd place in 1993, with a record of 85-77. It was the last time they finished over .500 until 2006. When it was time to start spring training in 1995, the owners hired replacement players. Sparky Anderson would not partake in managing these players, saying none of the guys from last year’s team are in camp.

Sparky speaks
Sparky speaks 03 Mar 1995, Fri Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com /

The 1995 season did not start until April 26th, and the Detroit’s home opener was on Tuesday, May 2nd, when the Tigers lost 11-1 to Cleveland in front of 39,398 fans. That year they finished 11th in the American League in attendance, with 1,180,979 total fans coming to the park.

It wasn’t until the final season at Tiger Stadium that the Tigers would draw 2 million fans, which was the first time since 1988. Was it the team’s slow decline that lead to attendance falling?

If you start at the 1972 team, they still had a good core of their players from the 1968 club. The 1981 team was managed by Sparky Anderson, who was the manager of the Big Red Machine teams of the 70s, and had one of the best young core of Tigers’ players in history.

The Tigers of 2022 are similar in some ways to that 1981 squad, with a trio of young pitchers in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning. But for now, all we can do as fans is wait for all of this to be over.

Next. Meet José Méndez, the first Afro-Cuban to play in Detroit. dark