Pearl Sandow and 736 other hearty souls

In honor of the roughly 400 people who turned out for the Marlins game against the Nats the other day, we thought we’d look back at some of the smallest crowds in Atlanta Braves history.

The nadir came on a Monday night, Sept. 8, 1975, when 737 people turned out to see a duel between a future Hall of Famer and one of the most dominant righthanders of the era. However, Phil Niekro and J.R. Richard happened to pitch for the two worst teams in the National League.

Cesar_cedeno_autographThe Astros entered the game with just 55 wins, against 89 losses. The Bravos were 63-81. Cesar Cedeno hit two homers and drove in six to lead Houston to victory in a game saved by Mike Stanton. No, not that Mike Stanton.

The Astros weren’t much of a draw back then. Thirty one years ago to the day, 970 folks showed up to watch the Braves beat the ‘Stros 4-3. They saw something they’d never see again — Al Autry in a major league uniform. In fact, they had never seen it before. This marked the only appearance by the Braves righty in the bigs. He got the win, outdueling future Bravo scrub Bo McLaughlin. I imagine the grandkids aren’t transfixed when grandpa starts talking about his cup of MLB coffee.

(Cedeno must’ve thrived on the small crowds — he hit a homer and drove in two runs.)

Eddie_solomon_autograph_2Only 877 people attended the Braves-Giants game on a Tuesday night in September, 1977. The Braves were 51-87 at the time, and played like it, losing 12-2. Among those who toiled on the mound for the Bravos: Eddie “Buddy Jay” Solomon, Don Collins, Duane Theiss and Max Leon.

The Bravos played several other games in the 70s with just over 1,000 fans in attendance — too many to list.

The 1980s weren’t much better, though compared to the previous decade the turnstiles were hopping. Here’s a look at some of the smaller crowds from the Reagan era (including some low figures from games the Braves played on the road — note the sparse attendance at Wrigley Field, before the Cubs were officially designated as cuddly):

1980

Sept.3 at Cubs: 1,480
Sept. 29 vs. LA: 2,150

1985

Sept. 16 vs Hou: 2,400
Sept. 17 vs Hou: 2,484

1986

Sept. 22 vs. SD: 2,419

1987

Sept. 9 vs SD: 2,501

1988

April 12 vs. Hou: 1,938

1989

May 4 vs. Phi: 2,047
Sept. 5 vs SD: 1,528
Sept. 21 vs Hou: 2,117

Before TP, JS, BC and the rest rescued the francise, Old Blue was a lonely place. The home team was last in the NL in attendance for three straight seasons: 1988-’90. The club drew a combined 2.8 million in those three years, a total surpassed in the 1992 season by itself, which was the first year Atlanta drew 3 million.

–CB and CD

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7 comments

  1. Atlanta’s now so much more heavily populated than those days, but next week might see a similar, if larger, phenomenon. A week after ‘bark in the park’ they might be having dead dog night. At least we can ruin Milwaukee’s season at home with a nice sweep at The Ted next weekend.

    In 1980 I remember cutting class, parking for two bucks, paying two for a ticket, and smuggling in our own beer. We then sat anywhere we wanted. Jerry Royster could hear you heckling his home run swing, even though he pretended not. Mmmm, to paraphrase Garnell, that was some very bad baseball.

  2. Yeah, that 70’s era was when my parents had gotten married but I wasn’t born yet…they say that sometimes, they’d be eating dinner and just say “hey, let’s go to the Braves game,” so they’d go, buy a bleacher ticket, and go sit somewhere on the lower level. If only a good seat could be had so easily and for so little nowadays!

  3. Cedeno preferred smaller crowds because there were fewer potential witnesses should he accidentally shoot another girlfriend.

  4. That’s true. Seems like throughout the 70’s, a Braves game could be a last minute decision. Just walk up to the ticket booths at game time and buy a seat almost anywhere in the stadium.

    And speaking of J.R. Richard, he was one of my favorite pitchers to watch.

  5. I recall one game late in ’88 when a friend and I yelled “Dion, you da man” to Dion James in center field and having him turn around and acknowledge us. We were in the upper deck of right field at the time.

  6. I went to Miami for vacation in mid-August and took in a Marlins game versus the Diamondbacks. The announced crowd of about 11,000 was nonsense; there couldn’t have been more than 2,000 attending. Sitting there reminded me of games at Atlanta Stadium during the eighties. I remember that during the ’91 season, one of my co-workers was lamenting that the Braves had become too popular. When I asked him why it bothered him, he said that he could no longer go up to the upper deck and smoke his pot.

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