Eternally pessimistic Cleveland Indians fans may grumble that the end of the best sellout streak in the history of Major League ballparks means the team is headed back to the bad old days. They're wrong, of course, but even the most optimistic Tribe loyalist has to admit enthusiasm has waned somewhat among the more fair-weather fans since Jacobs Field opened in 1995.
Still, Indians attendance numbers are nothing to sneeze at. Attracting 32,763 people in a 43,368 seat stadium ain't bad. The Expos do somersaults when they attract 18,000. And look at the Tigers, even with a brand-new stadium.
For years, when many other Major League teams were struggling to keep what few fans they had, Cleveland was selling out game after game until the meter hit a phenomenal 455 games in a row and stopped. It was bound to happen - and not surprisingly in chilly April, when the breezes off Lake Erie are not particularly conducive to watching baseball outdoors.
It was surprising, though, that attendance dipped for a game with the Tribe's chief division rival, the White Sox. A series with the Twins in late summer would be more understandable. But while the Indians' momentum may have slowed in that only 14 Indians games, including the opener, have been sold out for the season, it is still one of a handful of teams in the American League that can draw more than 3 million fans a year.
That's a far cry from the bad old days at Municipal Stadium when 60,000 seats would often go wanting for warm bodies to witness another equally long streak of losses.