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Rays draw MLB's smallest non-pandemic playoff crowd since 1919

Mike Carlson / Major League Baseball / Getty

The Tampa Bay Rays lost their postseason opener on Tuesday - but few of their fans were there to see it.

An announced crowd of 19,704 spectators were inside Tropicana Field to witness the Rays' 4-0 loss to the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of their American League wild-card series. That marks the smallest crowd to attend a postseason game, with the exception of the pandemic-affected 2020 playoffs, since Game 7 of the 1919 World Series in Cincinnati, according to Tyler Kepner of The Athletic.

Only 13,923 fans took in that 1919 contest at Redland Field, a figure that was lower than usual for that series due to ticketing issues, according to SABR's Jacob Pomrenke.

There were likely some outside obstacles that contributed to the Rays' low attendance figure on Tuesday, including tickets only going on sale a few days before the game. The 3 p.m. ET start time also may have been a factor; Rays fans on the Tampa side of the bay may not have wanted to make the long midday drive to St. Petersburg.

Attendance woes have plagued the Rays for most of their existence, despite their being one of baseball's winningest teams over the last 15 years. While Tropicana Field has 42,735 seats, the Rays have attempted to counter low ticket sales since 2019 by capping capacity for their games at 25,000 people. They drew 1,440,301 baseball fans to Tropicana Field in 2023, averaging 17,781 per home game, figures that both ranked 27th out of 30 teams.

Still, the Rays have always historically drawn well for the playoffs. This was only the third time (excluding 2020) that they've played a home playoff game in front of less than 30,000 fans. They've also drawn over 40,000 on five occasions during the playoffs.

The small crowd comes just a few weeks after the Rays announced plans for a new ballpark in St. Petersburg for the 2028 season.

The MLB record for lowest attendance at a postseason game remains Game 5 of the 1908 World Series, a contest attended by just 6,210 people at Detroit's Bennett Park.

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