As the MLB postseason began on Tuesday night, with a classic Yankees-Red Sox clash in the AL Wild Card game, perhaps its a good time to count our blessings. With COVID-19 reportedly on the decline overall, baseball normalcy mostly returned in 2021, and for much of the regular season, fans were allowed back into stadiums.
According to ESPN this past Monday, MLB drew 45.3 million fans this season — obviously no where near the 68.5 million from 2019, but of course, much better than last year when literally no one was allowed in the stands (save for the neutral-site postseason games). Perhaps as expected — even though, like most teams, they didn’t start selling tickets until mid-June — the Dodgers led the way in home attendance, finishing the campaign with 2.8 million fans. The Braves came in second, with 2.3 million at Truist Park.
— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) October 4, 2021
As you can see, Atlanta did well in 2021, despite playing fewer home games than any of the other top-five teams. And the Rangers obviously benefited from being the one and only club to open the season at full capacity. But all-in-all, considering most of the league dealt with some type of fan restrictions for the first 60-ish games, the sport performed rather well attendance-wise.
Diving a little deeper into the Braves attendance in 2021 (using Baseball Reference), it’s pretty easy to guess which games drew the largest crowd at Truist Park. The Dodgers and Rays consisted of four of the five most-attended games in Atlanta, and surprisingly, all of the Braves biggest draws were during the months of June and July.
|Sat, June 5||LAD||W, 6-4||41,136|
|Sat, July 17||TBR||W, 9-0||40,868|
|Fri, June 4||LAD||L, 9-5||40,514|
|Fri, July 16||TBR||L, 7-6||40,485|
|Fri, June 18||STL||W, 9-1||40,377|
Apparently, the home crowd really benefited the Braves this season. As you can see above, Atlanta won three of its five biggest games, in terms of home attendance; and going further down the list, they won six of the ten most-attended games. That’s really not that surprising, especially if you’ve ever experienced the excitement of a Friday or Saturday night game at Truist.
The big takeaway from the Braves attendance numbers this year, though, is simply how well the franchise fared among the rest of MLB. Since ESPN began publishing its annual MLB Attendance reports, beginning with the 2001 season, Atlanta had never finished within the top 10. In fact, over the last 19 reports (which excludes 2020’s shortened season of course), the Braves highest finish among the majors in overall home attendance was 11th (in each of 2001 and 2018), with an average attendance rank during that span of just 14th.
|2018 , 2001||11th|
|2019 , 2003||12th|
|2017 , 2013 , 2010 , 2002||13th|
|2012 , 2008 , 2007 , 2006||14th|
So overall, it was a great year for the Bravos. Not only does this team now have four consecutive division titles to its name (with an exciting NLDS matchup versus Milwaukee starting this Friday), but it also just wrapped up a helluva regular season at it’s beautiful home, Truist Park. Hopefully, with a traditional start to the season and no restrictions on attendance, the 2022 campaign can be even better.