NEW YORK, NOV. 27 -- Baseball owners are doing better than ever, increasing their operating profits by 75 percent in 1989 to a record $214.5 million, according to financial figures obtained by the Associated Press.
The 26 teams took in a record $1,241,059,000 in 1989, a 23 percent increase from the previous season. Their operating expenses were $1,026,550,000, a 16 percent increase from 1988.
That left them with a pre-tax operating profit of $214,509,000, or an average of $8.3 million per team. The previous record profit of $121.6 million was set in 1988 on earnings of $1,007,519,000, baseball's first billion-dollar season.
The figures were obtained from two baseball sources on the condition they not be identified.
It was the sixth consecutive season baseball teams increased their operating profits. Because of the accounting practices of the various teams, financial figures for 1990 will not be available until next year.
Chuck O'Connor, the head of management's Player Relations Committee, said the figures showed that baseball "on an overall basis was doing quite well.
"The difficulty with it," he said, "is that you have to get below the aggregate figures to determine the level of health of the individual parts that make up the game -- the 26 clubs. There, there's a different story."
He said four clubs lost money in 1989 but that the figure would become nine based on an apportioned share of the tentative $280 million collusion settlement.
Baseball has boomed since the mid-1980s. The teams made $11.5 million in 1986, the season after they began shunning free agents. Two arbitrators found the conspiracy depressed player salaries; the profit soared to $103.3 million in 1987. In the four years after the conspiracy began, the teams made a total operating profit of $450.9 million.
However, as part of the tentative settlement of the collusion cases, owners have agreed to give the Major League Baseball Players Association a payment that would amount to $280 million as of Jan. 2. Interest will be added if the payment is made after that date.
One source said that approximately 50 percent of the 1989 revenues came from tickets sales, parking and concessions. Approximately 20 percent came from national radio and television contracts, 20 percent from local broadcasting contracts and the rest from postseason games, advertising and other baseball-related revenue.
Approximately 31.5 percent of the operating revenue was spent on player salaries, the source said.