Pirate Gate Plummets as Losses Mount

Filed under Pittsburgh Pirates
September 15, 1968

If Pirate fans throughout the country thing the team has been through a harrowing season on the field, they should take a peek at the amount of red ink about to be ordered by the auditor. The Bucs, picked by some to make a run for the pennant, have been wallowing in the second division and the flop on the field has been reflected at the gate. The Pirates will have a tough time approaching 700,000 in a year which they had visualized a possible one-million season. The decline in attendance comes at a tough time since the Bucs own three of the highest-salaried players in the game: Roberto Clemente and Jim Bunning, $100,000 each, and Maury Wills, $80,000.

Fortunately, the poor gate won’t mean a tremendous loss for the Pirates, since they’ll collect a total of $1,200,000 from the San Diego and Montreal expansion teams to compensate them for the loss of six players. Forbes Field will show the smallest attendance since the last-place team of 1955 drew only 470,000 in Fred Haney’s last year as manager. From 1958 to 1962, the Pirates enjoyed years of a million or more fans and drew the record high of 1,700,000 in 1960, when they won the pennant. Since 1955, the last two Pirate teams to drop under 800,000 were the 1963 entry with 783,000 and the 1964 crew with 760,000. The Pirates have drawn only four crowds topping 20,000 this season. They pulled in 31,000 on opening day and the first night game, April 19 with the Giants, drew 24,000. Two months later, 23,500 turned up for a Friday twi-night doubleheader with the Cardinals and June 2 brought out 21,500 for a Bat Day promotion. The handwriting was evident in the final month when a Labor Day doubleheader drew just about 6,200, though Pittsburgh always has been a good holiday city.

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