Vacant Lots

The Cards are in the playoffs. So why are there so many empty seats?

In Chicago it's an unspoken rule that weekday bleacher tickets at Wrigley are as good as a doctor's note when it comes to skipping work. That, of course, is during the regular season, because the Cubs and the playoffs don't come in contact with one another all that often. But what if the Cubs actually make the postseason? That's cause to move even the Yankees -- a perennial prime-time television draw -- into the noon hour.

For that matter, in 2003 New York played host to the Minnesota Twins in a rare noon weekday American League Division Series game in the house that Ruth built. So what did Yanks fans do? Played hooky, naturally: Out of 57,478 tickets sold for the game, only 1,186 paying customers failed to pass through the Bronx turnstiles for game one, for a no-show rate of just 2 percent.

These past two years -- in 2004 versus the Los Angeles Dodgers and last week against the hapless San Diego Padres -- Busch Stadium has played host to the game-one National League Division Series nooner. And unlike Yanks fans, when it comes to putting shortstops before spreadsheets Cardinal Nation has failed to back up its drop-everything reputation. A whopping 4,981 paying customers who'd purchased tickets for last Tuesday's opening game against the Padres neglected to show up to witness the victory, for a no-show rate of 9.5 percent (out of 52,349 tickets sold).

That's actually better than last year's noontime tilt with LA, when 5,798 out of 52,127 -- an 11.1 percent no-show rate -- couldn't sneak out the door and into the upper deck by lunchtime.

"That noon start is just very difficult for people to get to the game, especially because it's such short notice," says Joe Strohm, the Cardinals' director of ticket sales. "Plus, you have another day game going on two days later at a more manageable time (3 p.m.). Our no-shows were cut in half from Tuesday to Thursday."

But here in America's so-called best baseball city, one would be tempted to think worker bees could hand off unusable tix to pinch hitters. Why didn't that happen?

"That's a good question," responds Strohm. "Maybe they have intentions of going but something comes up at work and they can't get away."

In Chicago and New York, evidently, people find a way -- something to chew on when you consider the countless customers who were shut out at the virtual ticket window mlb.com set up to handle sales this year, folks who were presumably willing to trade their hard-earned green and a "personal day" for a bird's eye view at Busch last Tuesday.

 
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