By Haddon Libby

Last time the Red Sox and the Dodgers met in the World Series was 1916 when the Dodgers were referred to as the Robins and Babe Ruth was still a Red Sox.  While Trolley-Dodgers was Brooklyn’s nickname, the shortened version was not used formally until 1932. 

Back in 1916, the typical baseball game took 1:50 on and was played in front of 3,000 people. 

Within 20 years, the game would take two hours but twice as many people would attend.  By the time attendance doubled to 12,000 in 1954, a game was 25% longer at 2:30.  It would take until 1987 for attendance to double to 24,000 at which point a game was now a full hour longer than 1918.


Attendance peaked in 2007 when 32,700 people would pay to attend a game.  Since then, attendance has dropped 12.5% yet game times have continued to rise to an uncomfortably long at 3:05 with many games lasting four or five hours.

While game length has grown consistently for decades, television viewership has declined with equal consistently.  Using the World Series as the gauge, ratings have averaged approximately 20 million viewers of late which mean that one in five people watching television were watching the World Series.  If we go back to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ last appearance in 1988, 35 million people watched or two in five television viewers. 

While viewership and attendance have been in decline, revenues for the sport have grown by 50% over the last decade to approximately $9 billion per year. 

Revenue growth means higher franchise values as well.  According to Forbes, the New York Yankees generate the most revenue in baseball at $619 million a year with a franchise valuation of $4 billion – not a bad return for the Steinbrenner family which bought the team for $8.8 million 45 years ago. 

The Chicago Cubs’ ownership generates the largest profit from their team at $102 million on $457 million in revenues.  In general, the average Major League Baseball team generates $315 million in revenues for an annual profit of $29 million with a valuation of more than $1.6 billion.

This year’s Fall Classic is a battle between two exceptionally well run franchises.

Following 86 years of futility, the Boston Red Sox found success in 2004.  Two years earlier, a new ownership group headed by John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team for $380 million.  Tom Werner is best known as the executive producer of television shows like The Cosby Show, Roseanne and That 70’s Show as well as his prior ownership of the San Diego Padres while John Henry is an investment manager who previously owned the Florida Marlins.  With three Championships over the last 16 years and a franchise-record 108 wins this year, the Henry/Werner era has been successful and lucrative.  Forbes estimates that the Red Sox are currently worth $2.8 billion. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers faced their own dark years after the O’Malley family sold the team to the Fox Entertainment Group.  His name was Frank McCourt and he came from Boston.  Under threat of imminent takeover of the team by Major League Baseball, McCourt sold to the current ownership group led by Magic Johnson.  Despite driving the Dodgers to the brink of insolvency, McCourt still sold the team for a $1 billion profit at the mind-boggling price of $2 billion.

Once Magic Johnson’s team installed their people, the Los Angeles Dodgers won three consecutive division titles and have made the World Series for the last two years.  Forbes estimates the Dodgers are currently worth $3 billion at present.

By the way, last time the Red Sox and Dodgers met in the World Series, the Red Sox won 4-1. 

Haddon Libby is both a Red Sox and Dodgers fan and can be reached at