The second half of baseball's split season is 1 week old and a survey of ballpark attendance would confound experts who predicted the 50-day players' strike would cause fans to either return en masse or boycott the rest of the season.
Attendance is inexplicably up in some parks, down in others.
In some cases, baseball executives cite foul weather or unexciting contestants in explaining away the early low figures. In other cases, where the numbers are slightly higher than the first half, executives complain that the gate would normally be much higher at this point in the season -- if not for the strike.
The sharpest drop in ticket sales last week was at Cleveland Stadium, where only 4,773 fans showed up for opening night the second time around. By week's end, the largest crowd was 12,790, compared with a 21,283 per game average before the strike.
Pete Spudich, Cleveland public relations director, blamed the team's losing record and not the strike for the low figures.
"If we had been winning, the fans would have come out," said Spudich. "We lost seven of nine games and left 70 men on base our first week."
"When the strike ended, our No. 1 concern was the All-Star Game, and that gave us no time to do advance work or advertising."
In Bloomington, Minn., the Twins drew almost 2,000 more fans per game last week than in the first half of the season. But management was disappointed with the size of the increase.
"We consider the attendance last week to be lagging behind last year. It's all right, I guess -- we could have done worse," said Laurel Prieb, public relations director for the Twins. "But we always draw better in midseason because the weather is so bad in Minnesota in April and May."
In some cases, the split season appeared to boost sagging attendance, perhaps because the format was said to give losing teams a new lease on life. The New York Mets, who trailed their division by 17 games just before the strike, got off to a winning start last week in Chicago and were cheered on by 34,136 fans their first night back at Shea Stadium.
"The split season has helped us enormously; no doubt about it," said Lou Gorman, Mets vice president of baseball operations. "The first half we weren't playing well, although we think we played better than our record indicated. Now we're back in it and we've swung it around . . . The fans are glad to have us back. They missed baseball."
In San Francisco's Candlestick Park, which was less than one-quarter full for games in the first half of the season, attendance dropped by 3,000 a game last week, but Giant executives said they were not yet alarmed.
"Here in San Francisco, more than most cities, our attendance is affected by how we play," said Patrick J. Gallagher, vice president of the Giants' business operations, who added that the team traditionally draws well on Sundays and has not yet played a Sunday game. "We were in fifth place before the strike. I'm sure that had a lot to do with our low numbers last week."
Baltimore also drew below its average during last week's seven-game home stand. The Orioles drew 19,850 opening night, but only 13,780 for Wednesday night's game against Kansas City. The Orioles averaged 22,729 fans per game in the first half of the season.
"We were not disappointed, not even surprised," said Bob Brown, Oriole public relations director. "It indicates to us that there has been a fan reaction to the strike . . . Their patience has frayed a little . . . Their enthusiasm has not reached prestrike heights."